WASHINGTON — In an interview being aired Sunday, President Donald Trump expresses regret for not visiting Arlington National Cemetery over Veterans’ Day weekend but said that he was prevented from doing so because he was “extremely busy on calls for the country.”
The comments — part of wide-ranging discussion with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace — come after extensive criticism of Trump’s handling of ceremonial duties during the holiday weekend.
Last week, Trump traveled to France to take part in events marking the 100th anniversary of World War I, but courted controversy when he skipped a ceremony at Aisne Marne American Cemetery on Saturday because of inclement weather.
Other world leaders and U.S. officials made it to the site despite the rain. White House officials said the weather grounded a planned helicopter ride to the site and a presidential motorcade would have disrupted traffic throughout Paris.
Upon his return back to America, Trump opted not to attend similar commemoration events at Arlington National Cemetery. He did attend another memorial event in France, delivering a speech paying tribute to the troops who served in WWI.
When Wallace asked why he didn’t travel to Arlington for some of the events, Trump said “I should have done that.”
He said that he did attend those ceremonies in 2017. In fact, However, Trump was traveling overseas in Vietnam on Veterans Day 2017 and met with veterans there in lieu of the Arlington event.
“In retrospect, I should have done, and I did last year and I will virtually every year,” the president said in interview excerpts released by the news station. “But we had come in very late at night and I had just left, literally, the American cemetery in Paris and I really probably assumed that was fine.
“I was extremely busy because of affairs of state, doing other things … But I would have, I would have done it.”
On Thursday, at a White House event honoring veterans and military families, Trump said that veterans are “a tremendously important group of people to me” and touted a host of legislative accomplishments in veterans policy over the last two years.
He also criticized President Barack Obama’s veterans policies without offering any specifics.
“You’re very incredible people,” he told the crowd of veterans. “I know the job you’re doing; I know how hard it is. I know what you’ve gone through, especially before we came into office. What you went through is incredible. Horrible, in certain ways.”
The full Fox News interview is scheduled to air Sunday morning.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.