John Kelly Defends Trump's Controversial Call To A Gold Star Family

news
White House/YouTube

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 Trump 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" to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four US Army Special Forces troops killed in action during a mission in Niger earlier this month, but that the president intended to commend Johnson's bravery.

"I told him, 'Sir, there's nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families," Kelly told reporters at a Thursday afternoon press briefing.

Kelly said he advised Trump on what to say during calls he made to the families of the four troops.

"He's a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted," Kelly said of Johnson. "And it was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken. That was the message that was transmitted."

Rep. Frederica Wilson, a friend of Johnson's family, said she overheard Trump make the controversial remark on a phone call to Johnson's widow, Myeshia, on Tuesday.

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."

Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, said on Wednesday that she agreed with Wilson's account of the call.

"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Jones-Johnson told The Washington Post.

Trump doubled down on his denial of the congresswoman's account on Wednesday.

"I didn't say what that congresswoman said; didn't say it all.  She knows it," Trump told reporters. "I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren't too surprised to hear that."

Kelly said he was angered and saddened by Wilson's criticism of the call, adding that he was so upset he had to walk around Arlington National Cemetary for over an hour to collect his thoughts.

"I was stunned when I came to work yesterday, and brokenhearted, when I saw what a member of Congress was doing," he said. "What she was saying, what she was doing on TV. The only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go walk among the finest men or women on this earth."

Kelly also responded to Trump's suggestion earlier this week that former President Barack Obama did not call Kelly's family 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.'"

Watch a clip below:

More from Business Insider:

US Marine Corps

The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.

"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'

"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"

Read More Show Less

At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.

A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.

Read More Show Less

In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."

A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.

In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.

In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.

A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.

The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.

Read More Show Less