The mystery surrounding the deaths of four United States soldiers in Niger on October 4, and Donald Trump’s 12-day silence on the soldiers’ deaths at the hands of about 50 ISIS fighters who ambushed the U.S. troops grew deeper on Wednesday with revelations that officials drafted a statement of sympathy for the slain soldiers — but Trump for some reason refused to release it.
According to reporting by the Washington insider site Politico on Wednesday, officials at the National Security Council authored the statement, which was to be issued by Trump and presented as representing both Trump and his wife, Melania Trump. But even though the statement was drafted on October 5, the day after the Niger ambush, Trump never issued the statement.
In fact, Trump remained publicly silent about the ambush and the four U.S. soldiers killed in the ISIS raid for 12 full days. Only when asked by a reporter at a Rose Garden press conference on Monday did Trump say anything about the Niger tragedy — and then his statement focused on defending himself from accusations that he had behaved callously toward the soldiers and their surviving families, claiming falsely that President Barack Obama did not call family members of military members killed during his presidency.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 19, 2017
But according to Politico, a statement offering condolences from the Trump couple was ready to go almost two weeks ago — but was simply never released. Later on Wednesday, a White House official told CNN that the administration withheld the statement because it would be more “powerful” for White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to mention the soldiers during her daily press briefing.
On October 5, Sanders said that the administration’s “thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the fallen.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Sanders offered a different story, claiming that “protocol” had prevented Trump from making any public statements about the slain soldiers. Sanders claimed that Trump planned calls to the fallen soldiers’ families on Monday and made those calls on Tuesday.
But Trump conspicuously botched his call to the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, one of the four soldiers killed by the ISIS attack in Niger, telling Myeshia Johnson that her husband “knew what he signed up for,” and never calling the lost soldier by name, instead referring to him only as “your guy,” according to an account by Florida House Representative Frederica Wilson who listened to the exchange as she accompanied Myeshia Johnson to an airport where her husband’s casket was scheduled to arrive.
Trump denied Wilson’s account, accusing her of “fabricating” the statements.
The statement drafted for Trump to release — but which was never made public until it leaked on Wednesday — read as follows.
“Melania and I are heartbroken at the news that three U.S. service members were killed in Niger on October 4 while providing guidance and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these brave American soldiers and patriots. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers.”
“We are also praying for the two U.S. service members who were injured in the incident. We wish them a complete and swift recovery.”
“The heroic Americans who lost their lives yesterday did so defending our freedom and fighting violent extremism in Niger. Our administration and our entire nation are deeply grateful for their sacrifice, for their service, and for their patriotism.”
[Featured Image by Chris Kleponis/Getty Images]