“Well, Hitler did a lot of good things,” former President Donald Trump reportedly insisted to his chief of staff, John Kelly, while the two were in Europe at a 2018 event to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
The revelation comes from a new book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender. The book — published by Twelve, a division of Hachette – is set to be released on July 13.
According to the book, the president’s words “stunned” Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general.
Trump’s office has since denied the claim. “This is totally false,” said Liz Harrington, a Trump spokesperson. “President Donald Trump never said this. It is made-up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”
Bender claims that Kelly and the president had an extended conversation on the matter. “[Kelly] told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred,” and continued to emphasize German economic recovery under Hitler during the 1930s.
“Kelly pushed back again,” the book details, “and argued that the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.”
“You cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler. You just can’t,” Kelly finally told him, according to Bender.
The Guardian was the first to report on the explosive conversation after obtaining a copy of the book ahead of its publication.
Trump’s comments mirror a talking point often used by neo-Nazis and white nationalists: that by removing the Holocaust and other Nazi genocides from the equation, Hitler had sensible economic policies and built a strong unified Germany.
The book’s revelation does not describe the only instance of the former president flirting with such charged rhetoric.
At a campaign rally in September, Trump praised the so-called “racehorse theory,” which when applied to humans is more commonly known as eugenics. Last May, he praised Nazi sympathizer Henry Ford, highlighting his “good bloodlines.” Trump previously stated that he’s “proud to have that German blood.”
During his time in office, Trump repeatedly received flack for falling short of condemning racist and white supremacist groups. He referred to white nationalist marchers at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., as “very fine people,” and told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate.