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Donald Trump Says He Had 'Concerns' About Iraq Visit Because the Plane Was Dark and He Was Worried About Melania

During President Donald Trump's unannounced visit to troops in Iraq on Wednesday—his first trip to troops deployed to a combat zone since he was elected—he admitted he had been concerned about making the trip.

The president said blacked-out windows inside the plane and unspecified concerns for first lady Melania Trump—who made the trip as well—had left him wary.

“I had concerns about the institution of the presidency," Trump said in response to a question about the subject while in Iraq, via a pool report. "Not for myself personally. I had concerns for the first lady, I will tell you. But if you would have see what we had to go through in the darkened plane with all window closed with no light anywhere. Pitch black. I’ve been on many airplanes. All types and shapes and sizes.… So did I have a concern? Yes, I had a concern."

Trump had previously come under scrutiny for his decision to eschew visiting troops who were deployed in areas of combat like Iraq or Afghanistan. Last month, a former senior administration official told The Washington Post that Trump had expressed fears over his safety if he traveled to a combat zone.

“He’s never been interested in going,” the official told the Post, citing conversations with the president. “He’s afraid of those situations. He’s afraid people want to kill him.”

He brushed that scrutiny aside in an October interview with the Associated Press, claiming he had done other things for the military:

"Well, I will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary. "I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country. I mean, this is the greatest economy we’ve ever had, best unemployment numbers. Many groups are, you know, we’ve never even been close to these numbers. I’m doing a lot of things. I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly. Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. I haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years. I just got them a substantial pay raise. ‘They’ meaning our military people. I just got them new equipment. They have stuff that was so old that the grandfathers used to fly it. I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years."

Trump on Wednesday visited al-Asad Air Base, a joint U.S.-Iraqi military base west of Baghdad. "I want to come and pay my respects most importantly to the great soldiers, great troopers we have here," he said during his approximately three-hour visit, during which he also defended his decision to withdraw troops from Syria. 

The visit from Trump came during an especially tumultuous time for his presidency. The government remains in a partial shutdown sparked by Trump refusing to sign a stop-gap spending bill over his demands for funding for his long-promised border wall. In Iraq, the president hinted the shutdown could last for a fair bit of time when he was asked how long it could go. 

“Whatever it takes," Trump said, via the pool report. "We need a wall. We need safety for our country. Even from this standpoint. We have terrorists coming in through the southern border."

donald trump concern iraq visist President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive to speak to members of the U.S. military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26. The president arrived in Iraq on his first visit to U.S. troops deployed in a war zone since his election two years ago. Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

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