Calling it “an assault on the honor of this country,” Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Sunday said “there is no question” that Donald Trump faked an injury to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.
“There is no question, I think to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving,” the mayor of South Bend (Ind.) told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
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“You have somebody who thinks it’s all right to let somebody go in his place into a deadly war, and is willing to pretend to be disabled in order to do it,” he said. “That is an assault on the honor of this country.”
Buttigieg, who served as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, first accused Trump of using his “privileged status to fake a disability” on Thursday in an hourlong interview with The Washington Post.
Trump was exempted from military service five times at the height of the Vietnam War. He received four draft deferments for his time in college and one medical deferment for having bone spurs. In testimony before Congress, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said of the medical deferment: “Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none.“
He also criticized the Trump administration’s decision to send more than 1,500 military personnel in an effort to deter Iran. Buttigieg told Raddatz “escalation is the last thing we need in the Middle East right now.”
Referring to his own military experience, Buttigieg slammed Trump’s consideration of granting pardons for some service members who have either been accused or convicted of war crimes. One of those who has been mentioned for a possible pardon is a former Navy SEAL named Eddie Gallagher, who stands accused of murdering an ISIS prisoner and indiscriminately shooting at civilians.
“The idea that being sent to war turns you into a murderer is exactly the kind of thing that those of us who have served have been trying to beat back for more than a generation,” Buttigieg said.
“For a president, especially a president who never served, to say he’s going to come in and overrule that system of military justice undermines the very foundations, legal and moral, of this country,” he said.