President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived back in the United States Thursday after an unannounced overseas visit to American military troops stationed in Iraq.
The president and first lady left for their first trip to a war zone late Christmas evening to “thank [the military] for their service, their success, and their sacrifice,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced.
President Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas. pic.twitter.com/s2hntnRwpw
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) December 26, 2018
The trip, which was largely kept secret until Sanders’ announcement, came in the middle of a partial government shutdown and after Trump declared his decision to pull American troops from Syria, a move that has infuriated many of his political allies as well as military experts.
Speaking to troops at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, Trump backed up his decision to pull troops from Syria, saying the U.S. can’t keep defending other nations without “being reimbursed in many cases at all.”
“We’re not the suckers of the world,” Trump said, saying nations must fight for themselves or pay a monetary price to the U.S. if the U.S.’s resources are utilized. “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.”
“I love you folks because most of you are nodding your heads this way,” the president continued, nodding his head yes as he looked out into the sea of troops. “We’re respected again as a nation.”
Trump’s visit to troops abroad came nearly two years into his presidency, a timeline that drew criticism from many of his opponents who prematurely chided him by saying he was “the first president since 2002 not to visit troops at Christmastime.”
Nearly 100 service members greeted the president and first lady Wednesday, many sporting the infamous red “Make America Great Again” caps.
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