Trump on ABC News town hall: Comments on military ‘were never made by me’

The president said reports in which he supposedly called U.S. soldiers “suckers” were “fake.” He called the former military officials speaking out against him “disgruntled former employees.”
7:59 | 09/16/20

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Transcript for Trump on ABC News town hall: Comments on military ‘were never made by me’
Next question, from Alexander from Pittsburgh. Sat out the last presidential election, I believe. Unfortunately so, I did. Good evening, Mr. President. So, I'd like to ask, regarding your recent comment, about our United States soldiers, referring to them as suckers -- Could you say that again? Our United States soldiers, referring to them as suckers and particularly the late John McCain, our prisoners of war, as losers -- It was a fake statement. Go ahead. And recently requesting to ban amputee veterans from a military parade, how do you expect to win back the support of our military, their families, their friends and military supporters? It's easy, because I never made those statements. They were never made by me. They said I stood over the grave of soldiers killed many years ago and I said they were suckers. I never made that. You know we had 26 people as of today come out and say it never happened? And many people were there? Then they said about the rain didn't happen and that wasn't the reason -- the secret service said, we have a statement from them, they said that we could not travel because the helicopter couldn't be used. We would not be able to travel. Because when you do that, through a major city, it takes them days to get it prepared. I wanted to go anyway. I said, let me just go separately in a car in disguise, I don't care, I wanted to be there so badly, but the statements never happened. They were lies. As far as John McCain, I was never a fan of John McCain. I never thought he treated our vets well, he didn't do the job. I was never a fan of his. And I think that's fine and everybody knows that, and I said it to his face, I was very much up on that. But saying he's not a war hero. I have done so much for our vets and for our military. I rebuilt our military. Our military, when I came into this great office, our military was depleted. It was in the worst shape it was in, probably ever. It was depleted. The planes were old and broken, the shapes, everything. You see what I've done, I've rebuilt, $2.5 trillion and you think that was easy getting that money from Democrats? Because they don't like the military. This magazine came up, they made up this quote, it was a made-up quote. And you know, the gloves are off with Biden, who I've never respected greatly. I've never respected him greatly, but when they took this made-up quote that was now knocked out by over 25 people and they made an ad out of it, I thought it was a disgrace. Do you know what disinformation is? That's what it was. They made up a phony quote and then they went with it. It was a phony deal. And the one who started it was a big friend of president Obama and Clinton and it with us a phony deal from a very -- not very successful magazine. You did say that John McCain wasn't a war hero and notably silent in the wake of this article where general John Kelly, who was your chief of staff at the time, general James Mattis, who served as defense secretary for you, has said -- They didn't hear me said that. Well, I'm getting to a broader point. Because I never said it. With the generals. General Mattis said you're not trying to unite the country. General Kelly said he agreed with that. John Bolton said you are a danger to the country. The people in these top military positions who serve most closely with you have said you're unfit for office. How do you respond to that? These are people that I let go. These are disgruntled former employees, to put it in a nice way, a term people would understand. Mattis was a highly overrated general. Didn't do the job. Didn't do good on ISIS. I took over 100% of the ISIS kaly fate. Mattis was fired, as you know, by president Obama and I fired him also. He says he resigned. He didn't resign. I said, give me a letter. No more. Give me a letter. I was being nice. One of the problems, when you're nice, often times it comes back to hit you. I said, Jim give me a letter, it's time for you to move on. He gave me a letter. But I fired him. That's called I fired him. General Mattis didn't do the I wasn't happy with him. If you look at John Bolton, John Bolton, all he wanted to do was blow people up. He wanted to go to war with everybody and I used him very nicely. I bring him into a room, when people saw him, they say, oh, wow, he's going to go to war. I brought -- I'm bringing our troops back from Afghanistan, from Iraq. We're almost out of -- almost every place, you know, everybody said, because of my personality, they said, he'll be in a war immediately. Look at North Korea, how that's worked out. We haven't -- the sanctions are on, everything's the same, we haven't spent anything. We're getting along with them. I get along with Kim Jong-un. That was supposed to be a war. If Hillary Clinton ever got in, that would be a war. We would have a war, probably a nuclear war with North Korea. In the meantime, I'm getting calls all the time from friends of mine in South Korea, thank you, we love you, thank you. It's really been rather amazing. So, instead of wars, everybody said, look at what we had today with the United Arab Emirates and -- uae and just take a look at what happened with Israel today, with that -- take a look at what's going on, if you -- that was going to be a problem. We're actually creating peace in the Middle East. Without blood staining our sand. So you -- you criticized Jim Mattis -- Look today what happened with Bahrain. Well, a guy like Jim Mattis would have disagreed with the way I went about it. Tom Friedman of "The New York Times" wrote incredible glowing articles last week about this incredible thing that I've been able to do in the Middle East. A guy like Jim Mattis could have never done it buzz they were doing it the old fashioned way. They were going in the wrong outlets and the wrong doors. And what happened today with uae and with Bahrain and with Israel, people don't even believe it. And George, as sure as you're sitting there, I have numerous other countries in that region that are going to be signing very soon also. You'll have peace in the middle East. And this is without war and without losing -- and I'm talking about on both sides, but without losing our great young soldiers. You know, I go to Dover and I greet oftentimes soldiers coming in and they're dead and there's no sadder thing than to sit with a widow or a mother and watch these big, massive cargo planes and that back opens up and these incredible Marines are walking off a casket and they were killed in the Middle East and in many ways, nobody even knows why. Going there was the decision in the history of our country. We've spent $8 trillion and we've lost, you know, thousands of lives, but really millions of lives, because I view both sides, if that's okay. Millions of lives. This was the worst decision and by the way, Iraq did not, you know, Saddam hussein did not knock down the world trade center, in case you don't know and I'm sure you do know that. They said they had weapons of mass destruction. They made a mistake. So, we're now $8 trillion, we've been in there for 20 years, almost 20 years and Afghanistan, I guess, it's getting very close to that, it's over 19. And we're bringing our soldiers back home. Nobody expected that from me. And people are so happy about it. And you know who is the happiest, the soldiers. I see them all the time, what do you think, should we be here, no, sir, we shouldn't be here? Why? They don't like us, sir. And I tell you what, I've rarely met a soldier that's over there, they're better Thain anybody, because they can tell you what's happening, rarely do I meet a soldier that says we should be there. It was the worst mistake in the history of our country going into the Middle East.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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