An Iraq war veteran involved in payments to Iraqi civilians said he saw no evidence of Donald Trump's recent suggestion of Iraqi soldiers "handing out" millions in U.S. cash during military operations there.
"I'm confused by it because, in my experience, Iraqi soldiers never handled U.S. funds when I was deployed over there," former U.S. Army Sgt. Corbin Reiff, who served in Iraq from 2009 to 2010, told NBC News Wednesday.
At a rally in North Carolina Tuesday, Trump called Iraq "crooked as hell." He has sought to use the war in Iraq to question the judgment of Hillary Clinton, his likely Democratic opponent in the presidential election.
"How about bringing baskets of money, millions and millions of dollars, and handing it out?" Trump said in Greensboro. "I want to know: who are the soldiers that had that job because I think they're living very well right now, whoever they may be."
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks later said "Mr. Trump was referring to Iraqi soldiers" and not U.S. troops.
But some did not see the comments that way. Retired Major General Paul Eaton, a former commander in Iraq, called the comments a "smear" against U.S. troops on Wednesday.
Reiff said he was a non-commissioned officer in charge of foreign claims in Iraq. Military records confirm he was deployed in Iraq from September 2009 and August 2010.
His role involved adjudicating claims in the Baghdad area involving damage caused by U.S. forces or unintentional deaths. "It was my job to ascertain whether that force was indeed negligent and compensate those people fairly," Reiff said.
Reiff, who spoke out against Trump's comments on Twitter earlier Wednesday, said he couldn't speak to U.S. military involvement in Iraq as a whole or payments that were made, but he said he never witnessed Iraqi soldiers distributing cash.
"I just felt his comments were self-serving," said Reiff, who now a Chicago-based writer. "I feel like they didn't have the troops' interest at heart. I feel like he wasn't really thinking about the people that he was talking about when he made those comments."
Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
And the campaign offered no backup for their candidate's claim Tuesday night. The fund for distributing cash during the reconstruction was controlled by the U.S.-led coalition.
Reports have emerged of a small number of American soldiers mishandling those funds: an analysis of court records by the Center for Public Integrity found at least 115 enlisted military personnel and officers have been convicted since 2006 of theft, bribery and other crimes while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reiff said he could only speak to his unit's integrity and the people he interacted with.
"I just know from my own personal experience that we did a lot of good when we were in Iraq, and we helped out a lot of people and I'm proud of that," Reiff said.