Today's D Brief: Trump called U.S. war dead “losers”; A spike in Russian provocations; Vaccine test sites chosen; More election-fraud disinfo; And a bit more.

President Trump called U.S. soldiers “losers” and stood in front of the Arlington grave of John Kelly’s son — who died in combat in Afghanistan — and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg reported Thursday, citing multiple anonymous sources. The Associated Press and Washington Post confirmed the accounts shortly afterward. 

The president also asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades. “Nobody wants to see that,” Goldberg reports the president said during a 2018 White House planning meeting. 

Trump said an American military cemetery in France was filled with “losers” because those soldiers died in war. “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” he said during a European trip in 2018. (He also had to ask aides who the “good guys” were in the First World War.) The location was the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside of Paris, and you may remember that poor weather was the reason given by White House officials for why POTUS skipped the stop. To this day, Trump insists poor weather is to blame. “It was raining about as hard as I’ve ever seen,” he said Thursday. “And on top of that, it was very, very foggy. And the helicopter was unable to fly.” Read on, here.

Trump says Goldberg’s allegations are false. “If people really exist that would have said that, they’re lowlifes and they’re liars,” the president said to reporters Thursday evening. “And I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes. There is nobody that respects them more. What animal would say such a thing?” He added in a tweet that evening, “This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!” 

Recall: On the campaign trail, Trump denigrated John McCain’s service as a Navy pilot and a POW (“I like people who weren’t captured”). On Thursday evening, the president again told reporters that he was “never a fan” of McCain. AP has that in its coverage of Trump’s broad denial of Goldberg’s reporting, here.

For what it’s worth, the president has uttered at least 20,000 demonstrably false or misleading statements since taking office, as tabulated by the Washington Post.

Still, at least a half-dozen current and former aides came to Trump’s defense on Twitter Thursday evening, the New York Times reports. They included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders; and Jordan Karem, an aide to Trump.

Today for POTUS: He’s slated to meet with the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo in the Oval Office. There’s no press conference expected with the three leaders, according to the White House’s public schedule. 

From Defense One

As Russia Provokes, Trump Remains Silent  // Katie Bo Williams: The president continues a pattern of deference to Moscow amid unsafe air operations, a roadway collision that injured U.S. troops, and the poisoning of a Putin critic in Germany.

Five Military Sites Chosen for Phase III Trial of COVID Vaccine Candidate // Patrick Tucker: AstraZeneca is seeking 30,000 volunteers for the trial, which may lead to an effective vaccine by year’s end.

Pentagon, Defense Contractors Are Out Of Step On Tech Innovation, GAO Finds // Patrick Tucker: The Pentagon wanted to fund ambitious research into future tech breakthroughs but contractors spend most of their money on safer bets, GAO has found.

US Punishes International Criminal Court for Investigating Potential War Crimes in Afghanistan // Susan M. Akram, The Conversation: The court prosecutes genocide, torture and grave wartime abuses worldwide. Trump's executive order imposes on its lawyers and judges the kind of sanctions usually used on foreign terrorists.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1862, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee began his attempted invasion of the North that historians call the “Maryland Campaign,” which was an effort Lee hoped would sink Northern morale and disrupt the November elections. Almost two weeks later at Sharpsburg, Md., the bloodiest day in U.S. military history played out in the Battle of Antietam, which was a tactical draw between the North and the South that effectively ended Lee’s treasonous hopes of invasion. Antietam would become one of two major battles that convinced European allies (especially the Brits) that backing the Confederacy would be a losing game. Review that bit of history via the BBC’s “In Our Time” podcast, which assessed the trans-Atlantic impact of “The Lancashire Cotton Famine.”

Russian disinformation efforts are amplifying U.S. mail-in voting doubts, a new intelligence bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security warns. “We assess that Russia is likely to continue amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail and shifting voting processes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine public trust in the electoral process,” the bulletin reads. ABC News’s Jon Karl reported Thursday. (View the bulletin via Karl’s Twitter feed, here.)
More from that DHS warning: "Since March 2020, Russian state media and proxy websites have denigrated vote-by-mail processes, alleging they lack transparency and procedural oversight, creating vast opportunities for voter fraud.”
If that sounds familiar, it could be because it’s very close to repeatedly unfounded complaints from President Trump himself, perhaps hoping to benefit from that old adage about repeating a lie often enough that one day people will think it’s the truth.
Or it might sound familiar because of a separate line of attack from Moscow, this one involving Russia-linked influence operations that DHS analysts said are “raising questions about the mental health of [Democratic presidential candidate Joe] Biden to impact the 2020 election — a line of attack the president, 74, and his reelection campaign have also used against the former vice president,” ABC News reports. More on that July warning, which ABC reported on Wednesday, here.

AG Barr got his facts critically wrong while talking about voter fraud on Wednesday, telling CNN that “we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected, he — from people who could vote, he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to. Okay?”
The truth is “Federal prosecutors brought no such indictment,” the Washington Post reports. And that’s at least partly why a Justice Department spokesman released a clarifying statement Thursday which read, “Prior to his interview, the Attorney General was provided a memo prepared within the Department that contained an inaccurate summary about the case which he relied upon when using the case as an example.” More to that whopper, here.

An “appalling assassination attempt” is how NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who remains in a coma in a German hospital.
“There is proof beyond doubt that Mr. Navalny was poisoned using a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group. The use of such a weapon is horrific,” Stoltenberg said today in Brussels, according to AP. “Any use of chemical weapons shows a total disrespect for human lives and is an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules. NATO allies agree that Russia now has serious questions it must answer.” More here.

A second-term Trump presidency will likely bring an attempted U.S. exit from NATO, allies and former U.S. officials told the New York Times’ Michael Crowley.
Stating the obvious, “such a move would be one of the biggest global strategic shifts in generations and a major victory for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia,” the former officials warn.
For what it’s worth, Crowley writes, “Congress would most likely move to block any effort by Mr. Trump to exit the alliance altogether, but experts said he could deal it a near-lethal blow in other ways. One would be to undermine a provision in the original treaty, Article 5, that calls for collective self-defense. Previous presidents have interpreted it as a promise to defend any member from military attacks, but Mr. Trump has questioned it.” Read on, here.

U.S. troops say white nationalists are as large a national security threat as ISIS and al-Qaeda. About one-third say they've seen signs of that extremist behavior in the ranks. Military Times unpacks those survey findings, here.

Federal authorities on Thursday killed the man suspected of shooting and killing a Trump supporter last Saturday in Portland, Ore., the Associated Press reports. Federal agents, including the U.S. Marshals Service, acted on a Portland police warrant for his arrest and approached 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl on Thursday in Lacey, Washington, which is about 120 miles north of Portland. According to the U.S. Marshals Service, “initial reports indicate the suspect produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers.”
“[F]our members of the fugitive task force fired their weapons,” AP reports, “including two Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies, an officer from the Lakewood Police Department and an officer from the Washington State Department of Corrections.”
For the record: “Reinoehl had described himself in a social media post as ‘100% ANTIFA,’” and had already gotten himself “shot at one protest” and was cited by police “for having a gun at another.”
According to locals, Reinoehl fired first at the officers on Thursday — and he fired between “40 or 50 shots” before “officers returned fire, hitting the man.”
“It reminded me of a video game,” said one of those locals to The Olympian.
Meanwhile: Vigilantes in Rock City. A 77-year-old man and his 72-year-old wife in Tennessee opened fire on a black man and his son at a U-Haul parking lot in Chattanooga last Thursday. The elderly couple were reportedly “staking it out inside a U-Haul of their own" because they wanted to "scare off any culprits" trying to steal gas nearby. Fortunately a police officer who was in the parking lot intervened, and no one was harmed.
The couple were arrested “on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. They were found carrying several pistols, including a .357-caliber Magnum and a Glock 19. Officers also found a shotgun in their U-Haul.” A bit more, here.

Reminder: Here’s how to handle yourself should you stumble upon an active shooter: 

  • If there is an accessible escape path, try to evacuate the area;
  • Help others escape, if possible;  
  • Leave your stuff behind; 
  • Dial 911, when possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location;
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers. Read more at DHS, here (for a printable pocket card) or here (for more in-depth instruction).

More free advice: Don’t shoot paintballs into protest crowds. A pro-Trump supporter is now facing a $250,000 lawsuit after doing just that and hitting a woman in the chest on August 22 in Portland, Ore. More on that, here.
Dive deeper to learn “How Extremists Are Taking Advantage of the Protest Movement” in a new 15-minute podcast from the Wall Street Journal

Lastly this week: Get ready for the prototype of a supersonic Air Force One. The Air Force recently signed a million-dollar contract with a start-up aerospace company called Exosonic “to begin prototyping a supersonic aircraft that could someday carry the president around the world in half the time,”’s Oriana Pawlyk reported Tuesday.
Involved: a two-year, $1 million "small business innovation research (SBIR) phase II contract" that was recently awarded through the USAF's Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate.
The goal: draw up the specs for what such a project might look like, including a VR modeling of the cabin, as well as "power, weight, dimensions, [and] communication systems."
Oh, and before we get too far ahead of ourselves, keep in mind “the replacement for the current aging Air Force One platform has yet to be delivered — or even fully modified,” Pawlyk writes. Read the rest, here.

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Tuesday!