The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday defended military leaders after President Donald Trump accused “top people in the Pentagon” of keeping the U.S. at war to appease defense contractors.
“I’ve been a little dismayed at what’s happened the past few days,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said during an interview at the annual Defense News Conference. “I know the president says things for effect a lot, but to have a commander in chief question the motivations of military leaders and basically say they’re in it for themselves is wrong and it gives our adversaries an opening.”
“Even if you think it, you shouldn’t say it,” he added. The criticism from Thornberry — who didn’t endorse Trump in 2016, but has credited the president for supporting efforts to build up the military — is among the sharpest GOP reactions to Trump’s comments thus far.
Trump on Monday said Pentagon leaders don’t like him “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.”
The Texas Republican was pressed on the accusation, along with allegations that the president mocked troops who were wounded or killed. Thornberry, who is not running for reelection, also defended Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin, who Trump said should be fired after she confirmed that Trump has disparaged veterans.
Trump came under heavy criticism after the Atlantic cited anonymous sources claiming the commander in chief called wounded and dead troops “suckers” and “losers.” The White House has vehemently denied the report, though elements of the story have been corroborated by several outlets.
Following Trump’s comments about military leaders and defense contractors, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville defended the brass on Tuesday, saying the generals would recommend sending troops to war only “as a last resort.”
Thornberry added that senior military leaders “who have to send folks into war are the most reluctant to go to war.”
“You can say, well, their judgment is wrong or they think too much alike,” Thornberry said of military leaders. “But their motivation, their patriotism is to me without question. These are remarkable individuals.”