In a Washington Post interview Thursday morning, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg accused President Trump of using his "privileged status to fake a disability" to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War.
The Democratic presidential candidate and military veteran also talked about his own service record, drawing a contrast with the president, who has said he was exempted from the military draft because of bone spurs in his heel diagnosed in 1968.
"This is somebody, who I think it is fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was a child of multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place," Buttigieg said of Mr. Trump.
"I don't have a problem standing up to somebody who was you know working on season 7 of Celebrity Apprentice when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan," Buttigieg also said.
During the presidential campaign, in July 2015, the Trump campaign said Mr. Trump had a "medical deferment for bone spurs on both heels of his feet." The statement also said that Mr. Trump entered the military draft lottery and had received number 356 out of 365.
"When the draft occurred, they never got near his number, and he was therefore exempt from serving in the military," the Trump campaign said in a statement at the time. "Although he was not a fan of the Vietnam War, yet another disaster for our country, had his draft number been selected he would have proudly served and he is tremendously grateful to all those who did."
This isn't the first time the president has been criticized for allegedly dodging the draft. In a C-SPAN interview in October 2017, the late Sen. John McCain took a swipe at Mr. Trump, saying it was "wrong" for him to have claimed to have a bone spur to avoid military service.
Buttigieg, who frequently brings up his military service on the campaign trail, served in the United States Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer and deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. In the interview, he also sharply criticized Mr. Trump over reports that he's contemplating pardons of war criminals and some U.S. troops accused of war crimes.
"When you serve, when you take that oath, the oath is to the Constitution," Buttigieg said, "If you are convicted by a jury of your military peers of having committed a war crime, the idea that the president is going to overrule that is an affront to the basic idea to the good order and disciple, and to the idea of law, the very thing we believe we're putting our lives on the line to defend."
CBS News' David Martin reported earlier this week that the Department of Justice has requested the files about the accused war criminals from the Pentagon.
Buttigieg also told the Post that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right that Mr. Trump is engaging in a "cover-up" in stonewalling the House Democrats' various investigations into him. The president "deserves impeachment," he said.
Asked how he plans to handle Trump on the debate stage if he's the Democratic nominee, Buttgieg said he has experience with bullies, but the debate solely "can't be about him."
Arden Farhi contributed to this report.
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