White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Tuesday tried to walk back an attack from President Donald Trump on the nation’s military leaders, claiming “the top people in the Pentagon” aren’t happy with him because he wants to get the U.S. out of wars while they are beholden to arms dealers.
Meadows told White House reporters Tuesday morning that he had spoken with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other top officials, claiming they know Trump’s striking comments Monday weren’t aimed at them.
“Those comments are not directed specifically at them as much as it is what we all know happens in Washington, D.C. This president is consistent about one thing, if we’re going to send our sons and daughters abroad to fight on our behalf, he’s not going to let some lobbyists here in Washington, D.C., just because they want a new defense contract, suggest that they need to stay abroad one minute longer than they should,” he said.
“That comment was more directed about the military industrial complex,” Meadows continued, adding that no other president has been as good as Trump at giving “the equipment to our military men and women that need it.”
Esper is a former defense industry lobbyist for Raytheon.
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Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville was asked directly Tuesday morning whether the military is beholden to defense contractors at a Defense One online event.
“Many of these leaders have sons and daughters who have gone to combat, or may be in combat right now. So, I can assure the American people that the senior leaders would only recommend sending our troops to combat when it’s required in national security in the last resort. We take this very, very seriously in how we make our recommendations,” McConville said.
At a White House news conference Monday, Trump, in attacking Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden, suggested “the top people in the Pentagon” — including men he chose — have a common interest with arms dealers in wanting to stay in “endless wars.”
“And it’s one of the reasons the military — I’m not saying the military is in love with me — the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy,”