White House chief of staff John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general whose son was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010, responded to a firestorm of criticism President Donald Trump faced after a congresswoman alleged that he told the widow of a slain soldier that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”
Kelly defended Trump, saying that there is “no perfect way to make that phone call,” but that the president meant to say that the slain soldier “was exactly where he wanted to be and exactly who he wanted to be with when his life was taken.”
Kelly said that he advised the president to make that comment because it comforted him to think that when his own son died he was doing what he wanted to be doing, that “he knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%.”
“I told him, ‘Sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families,” Kelly said.
Rep. Frederica Wilson said she overheard Trump make this remark on a phone call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four US Army Special Forces troops killed in action during a mission in Niger earlier this month.
Kelly also responded to Trump’s suggestion that former President Barack Obama did not call Kelly after his son was killed in action.
The chief of staff confirmed that he told Trump that Obama did not call him, but said “that was not a criticism” of Obama.
“He asked me about previous presidents and I said, ‘I can tell you that president Obama … didn’t call my family,” Kelly said. “That was not a criticism. That was simply to say, ‘I don’t believe President Obama called.'”
On Wednesday morning, Trump accused Wilson of lying about what he said, adding that he has “proof” to support his denial.
“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” Trump wrote.
Wilson responded to Trump’s accusation on Wednesday morning, calling the president “a sick man” who “feels no pity or sympathy for anyone.”
Watch a clip below: