White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Thursday gave a powerful defense of President Trump’s handling of a call to a Gold Star widow of a soldier who was killed in Niger — and ripped a Florida lawmaker for politicizing the issue.
“There’s no perfect way to make that phone call,” he said in his first public comments on the controversy over the call, which slain Sgt. La David Johnson’s mother Cowanda Jones-Johnson and a Florida lawmaker who knew him called disrespectful.
“If you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call but I think he very bravely does make those calls.”
Kelly, who lost his marine lieutenant son in Afghanistan, said he advised Trump not to make the calls because it was so difficult to deliver such a tragic message.
But the president, he said, insisted that he thought it was the right thing to do.
”He said to me, ‘What do I say?’ ‘I said to him, ‘Sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families,” he said.
He then said a military friend had told him how he handled the calls, and he shared the advice with the president.
The friend, he said, would tell loved ones that the deceased “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were.”
That phrasing is similar to what Johnson’s family said Trump told them, that the sergeant “knew what he signed up for.”
Kelly also blasted Democratic Rep. Frederica S. Wilson for listening in and politicizing the call that Trump had made.
“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me,” he said, adding that the death of someone serving their country in the military was sacred.
“I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die in the battlefield, I thought that might be sacred. And when I listened to this woman and what she was saying and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this earth,” he said.
The lawmaker had gone on television Wednesday morning to attack the president, and engaged in a twitter war with the commander in chief as well.
“And you can always find them. Because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery. Went over there for an hour and a half, walked among the stones some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed,” Kelly said.
The marine general also said he was not criticizing ex-President Obama when he told trump that Obama had not for called him after his son Robert Kelly was killed by an Afghan police officer in an ambush.
Kelly also described how families are notified when a service member is killed, saying an officer is dispatched to the family’s home early in the morning, waits for the first light to come on and then knocks on the door to deliver the devastating news.
He also described how he and his wife learned of their own son’s death.
“When my son was killed his friends were calling us from Afghanistan, telling us what a great guy he was,” Kelly said in a steady, subdued voice.
SOURCE: Bob Fredericks
New York Post