White House Chief of Staff John Kelly attended a press briefing on Thursday to tell his version of what occurred between President Donald Trump and the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson. Without mentioning any names in his account of the events, he was perfectly clear in who he was referring to throughout the briefing. Kelly was “stunned” and “broken-hearted” at the criticism of a congresswoman who listened in on the phone call and accused the president of being “insensitive.”
After severe backlash that Trump took for telling a soldier’s widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for” in his condolence call to her, John Kelly is defending Trump. The uproar began when Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla) spoke out about Trump’s comments after listening in on the call. John Kelly diplomatically said he was “stunned” that a congresswoman listened in on the phone call and was disillusioned that the phone call wasn’t “sacred,” as those types of calls have always been in the past. Kelly was so blindsided by the outcry that he collected his thoughts by walking among the “finest men and women on Earth” at Arlington National Cemetery.
The emotion on John Kelly’s face was apparent, but remarkably poised, in his version of what Trump tried to relay to La David Johnson’s family. Kelly first told President Trump that there’s nothing he could say that would ease the pain grieving family members experience of killed military personnel, and advised him “not to call” Gold Star families. He explained that the only call that matters to families is from buddies who served with their loved ones.
John Kelly: “The only thing I did to collect my thoughts was walk among the finest men & women on Earth [at Arlington National Cemetery]” pic.twitter.com/9PgtmqerZ3
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 19, 2017
CNN reports that Kelly advised on Donald Trump what to say when calling Gold Star family members. He offered similar words that Gen. Joseph Dunford offered to Kelly when his son, 1st. Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan.
“He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we were at war. And when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the President tried to say to the four families the other day.”
Kelly said that was the message that was “transmitted” to family members of the four soldiers who were ambushed in Niger on October 4. According to Johnson’s mother and the congresswoman, Trump’s words weren’t conveyed that way when he called Myeshia Johnson, La David Johsnon’s widow.
John Kelly confirmed that it’s true President Obama didn’t call him after his son was killed, but emphasized that’s “not a negative” thing. He imparted that it’s not customary for presidents to make those types of calls and that it’s not of utmost importance to families.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]