UPDATE: Dec. 26, 2018 at 4:08 p.m.
In a visit that came hours after NBC News reported that President Trump was the first president since 2002 that did not visit wounded warriors or troops during Christmastime, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump met with troops stationed in Iraq, traveling there “late Christmas night,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
The Trumps arrived in Iraq on Wednesday, following a “secret overnight flight.”
“Trump left behind a slate of troubles in Washington, including a partial government shutdown and an unsteady economy,” according to CNN. “He’s also faced criticism for a series of foreign policy decisions that have left his national security team at odds.”
This makes Trump’s first trip to visit U.S. troops in a combat zone, after much criticism.
According to The Washington Post, the head of one of two main blocs in Iraq’s Parliament, Sabah al-Saidi, “is denouncing Trump’s unannounced visit, calling it a ‘blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty’.” Al-Saidi is calling for an emergency session of Parliament to discuss his visit.
He said Trump should not be allowed to arrive “as if Iraq is a state of the United States” as “the American occupation of Iraq is over.”
White House press secretary Sanders said Trump couldn’t meet with the Iraqi prime minister because of the short notice of the president’s trip and security concerns.
ORIGINAL STORY: Trump Skips Traditional Visit With Troops at Christmastime
President Donald Trump, who made history as the first reality TV president and the first president to use Twitter to fire and hire White House staff, has now become the first president since 2002 that did not visit military personnel around Christmastime.
NBC News reported on Tuesday that, according to the network’s logs and news releases, President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush had participated in the tradition during their tenures.
Every Christmas Obama was in office, from 2009 to 2016, he visited troops at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay. Preceding that, Bush made visits to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from 2003 to 2008.
In 2017, Trump did visit wounded troops on Dec. 21 at Walter Reed. But, this year, after postponing his end-of-the-year vacation in Florida because of the partial federal government shutdown over his desired border wall, Trump spent Christmas in the White House.
As many presidents have done, he placed calls to service members. He also spoke by videoconference “with service members stationed at remote sites worldwide to thank them for their service to our Nation,” said a White House statement.
Trump has consistently claimed he has accomplished more for the military and veterans than any other president in recent memory. He specifically mentions Obama.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama says in her memoir that she would “never forgive” Trump for putting her “family’s safety at risk with his vehement promotion of the false birther conspiracy theory.”
Trump’s response: “I’ll never forgive [President Barack Obama] for what he did to our U.S. military. It was depleted, and I had to fix it.”
But he faces criticism as in almost two years in office, Trump has yet to visit U.S. troops in a combat zone. And in November, because of rain, he cancelled plans to attend a commemoration in France to honor U.S. soldiers killed during World War I.
VoteVets, a veterans lobby group, tweeted on Nov. 10:
“Donald Trump complained about having to stand in the rain, to speak about the massacre in Pittsburgh, because it messed his hair up (more). Today, he will skip honoring fallen American heroes of WWI, and stay in his hotel room, because of some rain.”
Also in November, Trump skipped the traditional Veterans Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery for the solemn wreath-laying ceremony.