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Donald Trump pleads to keep ‘Robert E. Lee’ on Army bases

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President Donald Trump was caught decrying ‘cancel culture’ as ‘bulls**t’ to a Republican senator – who had the call on speakerphone at a Washington D.C. restaurant as the president pleaded to keep Robert E. Lee’s name on Army bases.

The New York Times obtained audio of a Wednesday night call between Trump and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, as the Oklahoma Republican put a conversation with the president on speaker while he dined at a Capitol Hill restaurant.  

‘All right, my friend,’ said Trump to Inhofe, 85. ‘Are you doing good? We’re going to keep the name of Robert E. Lee?’

Trump was then heard to say: ‘I had about 95,000 positive retweets on that. That’s a lot. 95,000’s a lot. People like it.’ The tweet currently has 34,500 retweets, but was liked 134,200 times. It is impossible to know if retweets are ‘positive.’

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‘Bulls**t.’ Donald Trump could be heard talking about cancel culture in a speakerphone conversation with an 85-year-old Republican senator broadcast across a restaurant

Sen. Jim Inhofe told President Donald Trump that he would 'make it happen,' though it's still unclear if Inhofe, a conferee during Conference Committee discussions, would be able to strip the amendment out of the Defense package, as the bill overwhelmingly passed both houses

Sen. Jim Inhofe told President Donald Trump that he would ‘make it happen,’ though it’s still unclear if Inhofe, a conferee during Conference Committee discussions, would be able to strip the amendment out of the Defense package, as the bill overwhelmingly passed both houses 

According to The New York Times, Sen. Jim Inhofe was eating at the Capitol Hill Italian restaurant Trattoria Alberto's and put the president on speakerphone, though still held the device up to his ear. Several neighboring tables heard the conversation

According to The New York Times, Sen. Jim Inhofe was eating at the Capitol Hill Italian restaurant Trattoria Alberto’s and put the president on speakerphone, though still held the device up to his ear. Several neighboring tables heard the conversation 

On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had spoken to Sen. Jim Inhofe who had assured him that the amendment to rename military bases named for Confederates wouldn't remain in the Defense bill, despite it being passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress

On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had spoken to Sen. Jim Inhofe who had assured him that the amendment to rename military bases named for Confederates wouldn’t remain in the Defense bill, despite it being passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress

Then Trump could be heard saying: ‘They don’t want cancel culture. People want to get back to life not this bulls**t.

‘So it’s very positive, I’ll bet you had a lot of good,’ Trump said before being drowned out by other noise in the restaurant.

‘Sure did, I appreciate it very much,’ Inhofe replied.

The senator was eating at Trattoria Alberto, a Capitol Hill Italian restaurant popular with Republicans. 

Trump had tweeted a day after the Republican-led Senate had passed the $740.5 billion defense spending bill that included an amendment proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren to rename the bases still named for Confederate fighters.  

The Senate bill had strong bipartisan support and passed 86-14.

The president had tweeted that Inhofe had told him that the 10 military bases named after Confederate figures would not be renamed.   

‘I spoke to the highly respected (Chairman) Senator Jim Inhofe, who has informed me that he WILL NOT be changing the names of our great Military Bases and Forts, places from which we won two World Wars (and mores!),’ Trump wrote. ‘Like me, Jim is not a believer in ‘Cancel Culture.” 

The bill’s companion in the House also passed and includes a provision to rename bases like North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, but gives the Defense Department a deadline of a year, instead of the three-year period outlined in the Senate amendment.  

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The provision to rename the bases could be pulled out in Conference Committee and Inhofe is one of the conferees, but with the measure’s broad bipartisan support that’s unlikely. 

Trump first came out against the renaming of military bases that are named for Confederate figures on June 10, tweeting out a statement and then having White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany hand it out to reporters and read it aloud. 

‘These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,’ Trump tweeted.  ‘The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars.’ 

‘Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,’ Trump said.  

Virginia’s Fort Lee is named after one of the best known figures of the Civil War era, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who President Abraham Lincoln asked to lead the Union Army and defected to lead the southern troops instead 

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had told Politico he was ‘open’ to renaming the 10 bases named for Confederate figures. Defense Secretary Mark Esper also supported the conversation. 

The Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was killed by a white police officer, and the subsequent ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, motivated McCarthy’s change of heart, one Army official told Politico.  

The events ‘made us start looking at ourselves and the things that we do and how that is communicated to the force as well as the American people,’ the source said.     

Confederate statues, among other things, have been targeted for removal because the south seceded from the United States to keep black Americans enslaved.  

But Trump has shown no evolution on the issue and instead staked his re-election prospects of taking that side on the culture war. 

Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment during a closed-door session on June 11 and with the help of some of her Republican colleagues it passed. 

The vote was done by voice, so there was no record of which senators voted for it. 

Trump caught wind of the move, but only after it had happened.  

‘Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars,’ Trump wrote. ‘Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!’ 

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, taunted Trump about his threat. 

‘I dare President Trump to veto the bill over Confederate base naming. It’s in the bill. It has bipartisan support. It will stay in the bill,’ Schumer said. 

As the bill worked its way from committee to the full Senate, Trump vowed to veto the legislation late last month. 

‘I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!’ Trump tweeted on June 30. 

Both bills passed with veto-proof majorities.      

THE 10 BASES NAMED FOR CONFEDERATE GENERALS

Camp Beauregard, Louisiana

National Guard training facility. Initially named Camp Stafford. Renamed for Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard in 1917

Beauregard was West Point superintendent when his native Louisiana seceded in 1861 but quit to join the rebels, firing the first shots at Fort Sumter and commanding them at Shiloh. He advised surrender in 1865. Unusually advocated integration in later life.

Fort Benning, Alabama/Georgia 

‘Home of the Infantry.’ Named in 1917 for plantation owner Henry L. Benning, who argued for secession from 1849, and railed against ‘black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.’ No military experience but rose to general and was one of the last to surrender at the ceremony at Appomattox Court House.

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Home of Special Operations Command. Named for General Braxton Bragg when it opened in 1918

Slaveowner former U.S. Army officer who joined the Confederates and rose to general but oversaw a string of defeats, culminating in Chattanooga when he resigned. Widely disliked by his men for his quick temper and obsession with discipline; historians have said his losses were a key part in Grant’s victory. 

 Fort Gordon, Georgia

Base for Army Signal Corps and Cyber Corps. Named for Major General John Brown Gordon when it opened in 1917

Despite no military training Gordon rose to major general, on the back of personal courage and tactical ability. Led the last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. Generally – but not definitively – acknowledged as the KKK’s leader in Georgia, then anti-Reconstruction governor and senator. Died in 1904 hailed as ‘the living embodiment of the Confederacy.’

Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia

Training and maneuver center. Named for General A.P. Hill when it opened in 1940

Hill was a career Army officer who quit just before Virginia seceded and immediately joined its forces. Distinguished brigade and division commander but blamed as Third  Corps commander for part of the Gettysburg defeat and lead the rebel retreat. Killed in action a week before the Confederate surrender, after saying he did not want to outlive the Confederacy.

Fort Hood, Texas

Headquarters of III Corps. Named on opening in 1942 for General John Bell Hood

Kentucky native Hood resigned his Army commission and volunteered for the Confederates in Texas, quickly becoming brigadier-general but failed as an army commander and was relieved of command after defeat at Nashville. 

Fort Lee, Virginia

Headquarters of Combined Arms Support Command. Named on opening as a camp in 1917 for General Robert E. Lee

Slaveowner Lee, the Army’s most brilliant officer, turned down a Union command to join the rebels despite opposing secession. He had victories in the Seven Days Battles and the second Bull Run, but led the rebels to the pivotal defeat at Gettysburg. Held off Grant from complete victory then personally surrendered at Appomattox as General in Chief. After the war backed the end of slavery but said black people ‘lack intelligence.’

Fort Pickett, Virginia  

National Guard training site. Named for Major General George Pickett on opening in 1941

Pickett, raised on a plantation, resigned his Army commission a month after joining the Confederacy. Best known for the bloodbath of Pickett’s Charge which led to defeat at Gettysburg, he also ordered 22 Union soldiers executed after defeat at New Bern, North Carolina. Fled to Canada for a year after Confederate defeat fearing he would be prosecuted for the crime. His wife’s hagiography of him was a key part of the ‘Lost Cause’ movement of the 1890s onward – which itself led to the bases’ Confederate names.

Fort Polk, Louisiana 

Home of the Joint Readiness Training Center. Named on opening in 1941 for General (and bishop) Leonidas Polk

Polk quit a brief Army career to become an Episcopal priest but was estimated to have as many as 400 slaves in the 1850s. So keen on secession that he set up a Confederate church, his brief military experience earned him commission as major-general. Led troops at a series of defeats including Shiloh and was regarded as a poor tactician disliked by those he led. Killed by shellfire at Atlanta after being spotted personally by Sherman.

Fort Rucker, Alabama 

Home to Army Aviation Center of Excellence. Renamed from Ozark Triangular Division Camp in 1942 for Brigadier General Edmund Rucker

Rucker volunteered as a private and rose quickly, playing a key role at the Confederate victory at Chickamauga but was captured and freed in a prisoner swap organized by Nathan Bedford Forrest. Was with Forrest when Union prisoners were systematically massacred at Pillow Hill, and worked with him after surrender, when Forrest established the KKK.

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