Former President Donald Trump and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) will meet with several Gold Star family members who lost loved ones in Democrat President Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan on Wednesday, Breitbart News has learned exclusively.
Trump is the leading GOP candidate for president, polling far ahead of the rest of the field in both national and state surveys.
Waltz, one of Trump’s top endorsers in Congress, and Trump will meet with the Gold Star family members on the second anniversary of the last American plane leaving Afghanistan. Waltz previewed the meeting in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve been obviously dealing with Gold Star families and keeping in touch with them—I sadly have a lot of experience with Gold Star families from the Green Berets and others that have been lost over time,” Waltz said. “What has been so striking to me is obviously there is a level of grief there, to lose a child is just hard to imagine, but I’ve never in 20 years of dealing with the Gold Star community I’ve never come across a group that’s so angry.”
In talking to them, they feel like they were lied to and that they received multiple versions of what happened that are conflicting. They’re told one thing by the Defense Department officials but then their Marine squad mates have reached out to them and told them very different things. I could keep going—some of them still don’t have the personal effects of what they had on them, particularly their phones and what photos they took, and then how they were treated by President Biden. That’s not coming from me, that’s coming from them. All the way from as one father said ‘repeatedly’ looking at his watch to telling them he understands how they feel because his son Beau came home in a flag-draped coffin which they knew was false and that he died in a hospital of cancer and the Bidens were able to be with their son unlike these Gold Star families. So, it just occurred to me that I gave President Trump a call and asked him if he wouldn’t mind spending some time with them. I don’t want to politicize this at all but I keep hearing from our president and I see how good he is in these situations. I just thought it would be kind of a cathartic, positive experience for them and of course immediately he said yes.
Most of the 13 American servicemen and women killed in the horrific bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in August 2021 just two years ago will have family members present with Trump—the first presidential candidate in 2024 of either party to meet with the families of those killed.
Marines who died that day in the bombing include Lance Corporal David Espinoza, Sergeant Nicole Gee, Staff Sergeant Darin Hoover, Corporal Hunter Lopez, Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, Corporal Daegan Page, Sergeant Johanny Pichardo, Corporal Humberto Sanchez, and Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz. Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss and Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak were also killed in the bombing.
Family members of Gee, Hoover, Merola, Nikoui, Page, Sanchez, Schmitz, and Knauss will be, per a list of expected attendees obtained by Breitbart New, present at the meeting with Trump on Wednesday.
A Trump campaign official confirmed the planned roundtable meeting to Breitbart News. “There is no bigger champion of America’s military members, and their families as well, than President Trump,” the Trump campaign official said. “Contrast that with Joe Biden’s total lack of respect for our military and his disastrous and embarrassing withdrawal in Afghanistan that led to the death of American troops, put additional lives at risk, and emboldened the enemy.”
Several of the family members have also appeared at public events organized by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and before congressional committees, where that “anger” that Waltz talked about in his interview with Breitbart News has shone through apparent to viewers. Walsh said the reason why these families are even more upset than most Gold Star families, too, is because they know their kids did not need to die—and that it was incompetence on behalf of the U.S. government generally and on behalf of President Biden specifically that caused their children’s deaths.
“The two kind of things that I think Biden ran on was compassion and competence and the way the withdrawal was done was clearly incompetent and their personal interactions with him have not been compassionate at all—in fact, it’s had the opposite effect,” Waltz said. “So, yeah, you’re absolutely right—they know and I know their sons and daughters were put in impossible situations and were asked to do two conflicting missions: a combat withdrawal in the face of enemy forces where you’ve got to shut the gate down and bunker up, but also an evacuation where you’ve got to literally leave the gate open. That’s exactly what happened. Everybody watching that in August who had been in combat with these terrorists knew that it was only a matter of time with that sea of people pressing up against them before one literally exploded and that’s exactly what happened.”
When Americans sign up to join the U.S. armed forces, Waltz said they and their family members know that putting on the uniform carries with it a risk of possibly losing their lives for their country. But in this case, he said, these young Americans did not need to die—it was incompetence of the U.S. government that caused it. “When their sons or daughters sign up, they know they’re going into harm’s way—but there’s also a level of trust,” Waltz said. “These are 18, 19, 20 year old kids. There’s a level of trust in the military and the officials in the Pentagon and their superiors that was, in their minds, betrayed.”
Another thing and they’ve said it to me and I’m glad they finally said it out loud at that hearing is every time they hear [Secretary of Defense Lloyd] Austin, [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark] Milley, and Biden say it was an outstanding success, pat themselves on the back, and as one father said his son always told his Marines to be a man when you make mistakes, own it, and admit it, and then talk about how you’re going to move forward. That’s all they want to hear. They want to hear about ‘here’s what we did wrong, we take responsibility, and this is never going to happen again on our watch to another group of Marines.’ Every time they hear ‘no, no this was a success’ it just rips those wounds open again. With President Trump, you’re not going to get any of that. I think he’ll be a listening ear and these families clearly need to vent. There’s nothing like being able to do it to the president of the United States. I’ll tell you what I’m going to ask him, and I think the families will absolutely agree, is that the first day he’s back in office he should declassify everything—whether it’s drone footage, surveillance, correspondence, whatever the last photos they took on their phones that still haven’t been released. These families deserve transparency and they deserve the truth.
The roundtable with Trump on Wednesday comes two years to the day after the end of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan that Biden led. Trump, who sat with Breitbart News for an exclusive interview at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, during that withdrawal two years ago—an interview that came the night before the horrific bombing that claimed the lives of these thirteen American heroes—told Breitbart News then that Biden’s Afghanistan failures were the “single most embarrassing moment in the history of our country.”
“Well, the only thing that surprised me is that everybody knew how absolutely stupid this situation in Afghanistan was, that it should have never ever been this way,” Trump said in the nearly two-hour-long Breitbart News interview in August 2021 in Bedminster. “Because everybody knows. A child would know, you take the military out last. You get everybody out, then you get all the equipment — you take your $83 billion worth of equipment — then you blow up the bases. And perhaps you stay at, you take a certain area that you may want to keep like Bagram and keep the base Bagram because it’s next to China and Iran. It costs billions and billions of dollars to build. And maybe you keep that for other reasons. But everybody knows that you take your military out last. And they took the military out first.”
Waltz told Breitbart News that when he first pitched this idea for a roundtable with the families the former president jumped at the idea to highlight his competence against Biden’s incompetence.
“He thinks the way in which it [the withdrawal] was handled was a fantastic mistake and not the way he would have done it,” Waltz said. “Certainly, in this kind of aftermath, it’s not what he would have done.”
Much of the information on this is still not public, and Waltz’s push for transparency sets up 2024 as a referendum election between Trump and Biden on this exact point. If Biden were able to secure another term in the White House, he could keep hiding the truth about the Afghanistan withdrawal, whereas if Trump wins another term he could order the release of this information immediately.
“Think of all the things that never would have seen the light of day if Republicans hadn’t won the House,” Waltz said. “It’s astounding, right? All the bank records, all the shell companies, all of it. It would still be buried.”
The ultimate irony, Waltz said, is that Biden, who campaigned on being the candidate of compassion, is the one standing in the way of true compassion in this case—and the way to bring real closure for these families is to eject Biden from the White House and reelect Trump to the Oval Office so he can right Biden’s historic wrong. “Obviously, while we’re investigating the withdrawal and the decisions leading up to it and the aftermath of it, I never thought we would have to demand transparency and get a new Commander-in-Chief in just to get right with Gold Star families,” Waltz said. “It’s really sad.”