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Trump actually admitted a mistake — mostly

The president says twice that he “should have” gone to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day.

President Trump departs with first lady Melania Trump after awarding the 2018 Presidential Medals of Freedom in the East Room of the White House on Friday in Washington. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump on Friday made the rare step of admitting to a mistake — sort of.

In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” which will air this weekend but portions of which were released on Friday, Trump acknowledged that he “should have” visited Arlington National Cemetery for Veterans Day ceremonies on Monday, after returning from France the night before:

CHRIS WALLACE: But here’s the question: You’re back in Washington on Monday, Veterans Day. Why don’t you go across the river to Arlington for that ceremony? Barack Obama went every year he was here in D.C.
TRUMP: I should have done that. I was extremely busy on calls for the country. We did a lot of calling, as you know.

When pressed, Trump seemed to scale back his regret, saying he “could have” done it but offering more reasons it wasn’t ideal. But then he again admitted that he “should have” attended:

WALLACE: But this is Veterans Day.
TRUMP: I could have done that. As you know, I just left the day before the American Cemetery [in France] and I probably think — and that was one where it was raining as hard as you can imagine, and I made a speech at the American Cemetery the day before. And I probably, you know — in retrospect, I should have and I did last year, and I will virtually every year. But we had come in very late at night and I had just left, literally, the American Cemetery in Paris, and I really probably assumed that was fine, and I was extremely busy because of affairs of state — doing other things.
WALLACE:  Why ...
TRUMP:  But I would have — I would have done it.

Trump was on a trip to Asia on Veterans Day 2017 so did not visit Arlington then, but he did on Memorial Day in both 2017 and 2018.

Trump’s allergy to apologizing is well-established. He has said he doesn’t feel as though he has basically anything to apologize for, despite breaking myriad promises and routinely stoking controversy that gives even his fellow Republicans heartburn.

So this is significant — even as Trump watered down the quasi-apology by noting his other obligations.

He simply doesn’t allow for the idea that he was wrong that often. The most high-profile example of a Trump apology was when The Washington Post reported on the “Access Hollywood” tape that contained audio of him talking about grabbing women by their genitals.

Like that example, this may have been a bridge too far — especially considering the context of the missed appointment. Just a couple days before, he also skipped a trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside Paris, which he contends was due to rain and an inability of the Marine One helicopter to navigate the weather. That was two missed events at high-profile military cemeteries — on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I — from a man who has made restoring the military a calling card of his presidency and stump speeches.

It’s worth noting, though, that Trump actually didn’t have any appointments on his public schedule Monday — the day Veterans Day was observed. It’s not clear how busy he actually was for most of the day, though The Post’s Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey report that he met with his lawyers for four hours on Monday regarding answers to questions from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

He also didn’t have a visit to Arlington National Cemetery scheduled, so the call on this was apparently made well in advance.

So we’re basically in the position of taking Trump’s word for it that whatever he was dealing with that day — besides his lawyers — was more important. But he seems to now think that perhaps it wasn’t.