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Trump calls on fans to bombard Atlantic co-owner after story claims he called dead service members 'losers'

It was Trump's latest effort to dispute the bombshell story.
Image: Donald Trump Holds Campaign Event In Latrobe, PA
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pa., on Thursday.Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

President Donald Trump called on his fans Sunday to inundate The Atlantic's co-owner Laurene Powell Jobs with messages after the magazine reported that he once called American service members killed in combat "losers" and "suckers."

"Steve Jobs would not be happy that his wife is wasting money he left her on a failing Radical Left Magazine that is run by a con man (Goldberg) and spews FAKE NEWS & HATE," Trump tweeted Sunday morning. "Call her, write her, let her know how you feel!!!"

The tweet was the latest salvo in the president's dayslong effort to deny the story, written by Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg. The story cited several sources with firsthand knowledge of Trump's remarks.

"Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with losers," Trump told aides after scrapping a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 to honor the dead service members, according to the publication, which also reported that Trump later referred to Marines who died during the Battle of Belleau Wood in France in 1918 as "suckers."

Trump has vigorously denied the report, which NBC News has not independently verified.

"What animal would say such a thing?" Trump said Thursday night as he returned from a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The White House and other top Trump allies have also denied the report, while Democrats have criticized the remarks as "disgusting."

Goldberg criticized Trump's Sunday remarks in an interview with CNN, saying he had "spent a lot of my career covering dictatorships in the Middle East, and so I am familiar with this kind of discourse."

"It is a threat. It is meant to intimidate," he said, adding that the publication is "neither failing nor radical left."

At the time, the White House claimed that Trump canceled the trip to the cemetery because the weather made it unsafe to fly there. Other world leaders ventured to the cemetery despite the bad weather.

Multiple news organizations, including Fox News, have confirmed parts of the story. After Fox News' confirmation, Trump called on the network to fire the correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, who conducted the reporting.

In an interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said he "would be offended, too," if he thought the story was accurate.

Wilkie hit the piece's use of anonymous sourcing and praised Trump for his handling of veterans issues.

"What I'm looking at is the Donald Trump that I know, the Donald Trump that has turned around Veterans Affairs," he said.

The Atlantic also reported that Trump told aides after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., died in 2018 that "we're not going to support that loser's funeral," citing three sources with direct knowledge of the comment.

Defending himself, Trump tweeted that he "never called John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES."

In 2015, Trump publicly said that McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was "not a war hero" and that "I like people who weren't captured." At the same event, he said "I don't like losers" after discussing McCain's 2008 presidential election loss to Barack Obama.

In his CNN interview, Wilkie attributed Trump's previous remarks to "politics," adding, "I judge a man by his actions."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said on "This Week" that in his experience, Trump has "been extremely respectful, exactly what you would respect a president in regard to any reference, any conversation, you know, in regard to the military."

Speaking Sunday on ABC News' "This Week," former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who was defense secretary during the Obama administration, said that if they were accurately reported, Trump's comments were "despicable."

Hagel then pointed to public remarks Trump has made about McCain, as well as three top former generals who served in the Trump administration: former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former national security adviser H.R. McMaster and former White House chief of staff John Kelly. Hagel said the Atlantic story will "resonate" with the military because of such previous public remarks, adding that Trump's past statements make "the credibility of this article and those anonymous comments more and more credible."

Speaking with MSNBC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed to Trump's 2019 remarks at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France, during which he blasted Pelosi and former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Saying Trump "dishonored that sacred ground" by engaging in political attacks, Pelosi said: "Whatever he says about this article and that article, we know he dishonored them [by doing so], and it's on the record."