John Kelly, the White House’s former chief of staff, has publicly corroborated several unflattering anecdotes about his former boss, Donald Trump. Several of Trump’s reported comments regarding U.S. service personnel and veterans are included in Kelly’s message, highlighting the callous nature of these thoughts.
Kelly’s account backs up claims made by The Atlantic in 2020 that the former president muttered, “I don’t get it,” when standing next to Kelly in the area of Arlington National Cemetery dedicated to the victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on Memorial Day in 2017.
Kelly says Trump felt veterans were “suckers” and asked why they would do it. “What was in it for them,” Trump asked.
Trump’s incomprehension of American society’s regard for former POWs and downed fighter pilots is also described, which is very reminiscent of the purported utterance by Michelle Obama when she said, “All this for a damned flag?”
Kelly’s comments also lend validity to media claims that the president has often disparaged returning service members injured in the line of duty. According to CNN, the ex-chief of staff’s remarks set the stage for an excerpt from “‘The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021’ by Susan Glasser and Peter Baker,” in which Trump tells Kelly, after returning from a separate trip to France in 2017, that he does not want any wounded veterans to participate in a military parade planned in his honor.
Many others, however, don’t want to hear Kelly disparaging others when he has his own glass house, for instance, his racially insensitive comments about Florida Democrat Rep. Frederica Wilson in 2017. Kelly falsely claimed that Wilson prevented the dedication of a new FBI building because she “called up President [Barack] Obama for the funds.”
The statement’s contents were described as “horrifying” by Sherrilyn Ifill, a former NAACP Legal Defense Fund president. To choose to serve as Trump’s Homeland Security and then Chief of Staff and not have publicly delivered this detailed evaluation of Trump before now, she wrote on X, formerly Twitter is a terrible indictment of Kelly.