The Marine general was ambushed — by his commander-in-chief.
White House chief of staff John Kelly was caught off guard when President Donald Trump shared a personal story about the combat death of Kelly’s son, according to CNN.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, reportedly told Trump that former President Barack Obama never reached out to him after his son, Marine Second Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
Kelly’s son died when he stepped on a landmine. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, was a lieutenant general at the time.
Trump repeated Kelly’s claim Tuesday in a radio interview when he suggested that he was better about calling next of kin than his predecessor was.
“I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died,” Trump said during a Fox News radio interview.
“As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was.”
According to CNN, Kelly did not intend for that information to be shared with the general public, and Trump’s remarks came as a surprise to much of the White House staff.
Kelly is the highest-ranking military official to lose a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan.
A White House official who demanded anonymity said Obama did not call the elder Kelly after the death. It’s unclear if the president wrote to Kelly, who was a general at the time.
Kelly, who was a general when his son died, has not spoken about his interaction with Obama on the subject.
Kelly attended a breakfast President Obama and his wife Michelle hosted for Gold Star families in May 2011, six months after his son’s death, and was seated at the first lady’s table, according to a person familiar with the breakfast who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.
Trump made the remarks about Kelly in defense of his own claims that he made more calls to families of fallen soldiers than other presidents.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
One of those calls involved a conversation with the widow of Army Special Forces Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four Americans killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.
Johnson’s family said Trump was insensitive during the call, telling the pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”
Trump has denied making those remarks.
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