ARLINGTON, Va. (CBSMiami/AP) — President Donald Trump spoke at Arlington National Cemetery as he observed his first Memorial Day as commander-in-chief. But the commemoration comes as his administration is back on the defensive over possible ties to Russia.
President Trump laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the final resting place for many U.S. military members and others who have served the country, to mark Memorial Day. “To every gold star family, God is with you and your loved ones are with him. They died in war so that we can live in peace,” said President Trump.
The President expressed his nation’s “boundless and undying” gratitude to the Americans who have fallen in battle and to the families they left behind.
He told the stories of two soldiers who died in Afghanistan, Green Beret Capt. Andrew D. Byers of Colorado Springs and Christopher D. Horton of the Oklahoma National Guard, as Byers’ parents and Horton’s widow looked on.
Of them and all who died in military service, he said: “Words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love or the totality of their courage.”
Horton, a sniper sent to Afghanistan in 2011, died in a gun battle with the Taliban near the Pakistan border three months into his deployment. Byers was on his third combat tour and, Trump said, ran through smoke and a hail of bullets to rescue an Afghan soldier when he was killed. “We stand in awe of your son and his courageous sacrifice,” Trump told David and Rose Byers, the parents.
The president hailed Bob Dole, the former senator who suffered lifelong injuries in World War II and attended Monday’s ceremony. And he singled out his homeland security secretary, John Kelly, for whom military sacrifice could not be any closer to home.
Kelly led the U.S. Southern Command and lost his son, Robert Kelly, who stepped on a land mine while on a Marine patrol in Afghanistan in November 2010. John Kelly’s other son, Johnny, is preparing for his fifth military deployment. And Kelly’s son-in-law Jake is a wounded warrior.
The President’s first Memorial Day address comes as his administration is pushing back against reports his son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner tried to set up secret communications with Russia. In a statement to the New York Times, Mr. Trump said he has “total confidence” in Kushner.
“I don’t see any big issue here,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Kelly came to Kushner’s defense on NBC’S Meet the Press on Sunday. “Any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do.”
In order to handle the Russia investigations, CBS News has learned the administration is working on restructuring the White House Communications staff and setting up a rapid response team.
President Trump is also responding to North Korea’s latest provocations, including a short-range ballisitc missile fired Monday. The President tweeted North Korea showed great disrespect for its neighbor China.
And after President Trump refused to endorse the Paris accord on climate change over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe could no longer rely on the U.S., but says she is still committed to try to strengthen ties.
The President indicated that he will make a decision soon on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)