Veterans Push Back at Trump Over Theft Accusations

Donald Trump
AP

Donald Trump was criticized after implying that U.S. soldiers stole funds from the federal government intended for reconstruction efforts during the Iraq war.

"Iraq, crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money–millions and millions of dollars–and handing it out?" Trump said at a campaign rally in North Carolina Tuesday night, the Weekly Standard reported. "I want to know who were the soldiers that had that job, because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be."

Trump made the remarks on the same day as the U.S. Army’s 241st birthday.

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Journalist Corbin Reiff, who was deployed to Iraq for a year between 2009 and 2010 as a sergeant, lashed out at Trump Wednesday in an impassioned rant posted to Twitter.

Reiff, who now writes for Rolling Stone, said he served in Western Baghdad as a Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Foreign Claims and was tasked with assessing "damage to Iraqi citizen’s property, and person and compensate them monetarily."

He said the military entrusted him with taxpayer money in the form of U.S. cash so that he could compensate affected Iraqi citizens. This made his division "a high value target" for insurgents who attempted to steal the funds.

He described having to listen to "heartbreaking stories" from widows and orphans who traveled to verify claims had been adjudicated while spending a year "in an aluminum trailer," separated from friends and family, "enduring mortar attacks nearly every night."

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Politico after the campaign rally that the comments were referring to Iraqi soldiers, not U.S. troops that were in charge of managing reconstruction funds after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

But members of VoteVets.org, the largest groups of progressive veterans in the United States, said Trump’s accusations should prohibit him from becoming president.

"Trump’s attack against the courageous American men and women who heroically worked to restore law and order in Iraq is at once uninformed and irresponsible," retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, senior adviser to the group, told the Military Times.

"For him to smear our troops and veterans as he has, it is disqualifying, as far as I am concerned."

Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said during MSNBC’s Morning Joe Wednesday morning that the accusations made him "want to go through the screen and shake the guy."

"Yesterday was the birthday of the Army. He insinuated that American soldiers were stealing money in Iraq. He said that," Kaine said.

Politico noted that Trump made similar remarks during a rally in September.

"They didn’t really want to fight for Iraq because Iraq is a corrupt government, you know. Remember when they were handing 50 million dollars of cash? Cash! … I want to know who were the soldiers that are carrying cash of 50 million dollars?" he said in Keene, New Hampshire. "I wouldn’t be surprised those soldiers, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cash didn’t get there, I have to be honest."

Trump came under scrutiny last month after reports surfaced that he did not raise $6 million from a fundraiser for veterans’ groups as he had previously claimed.

Veterans later accused the business mogul of using them as "props" in his campaign for the White House.