President Trump on Wednesday claimed that a congresswoman’s account of his phone call to Myeshia Johnson, a military widow, was “fabricated” and he had proof she was lying.
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
On Thursday, White House chief of staff John Kelly backed up Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of the phone call.
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 18, 2017
According to the congresswoman, Trump told Johnson that her husband — Sgt. La David T. Johnson, a U.S. soldier who was killed on October 4 in Niger — “knew what he was signing up for.”
The congresswoman founded a program in 1993 called 5,000 Role Models of Excellence, which helps at-risk minority youths prepare for college, vocational school and the military, according to The Washington Post. Sgt. Johson graduated from Rep. Wilson’s program before joining the military.
“When I saw the headline that a young man was killed in Niger from Carol City, I thought, ‘My God, please don’t let it be a role model.’ And it was,” Wilson told Politico.
She said of Trump in an interview with CNN: “For him to say that this young man stayed in school, did all the right things, went into the service, became a sergeant so quickly, that he signed up for his own death? That is so insensitive, his sarcasm.”
Kelly, in an unexpected and emotional appearance in the White House briefing room, invoked the death of his own son, killed in Afghanistan in 2010, as he lashed out at Rep. Wilson for listening in on the call, despite the fact Johnson’s family invited her to do so.
“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning — and broken-hearted — at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly said.
“A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the President of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero. He knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted — there’s no reason to enlist, he enlisted — and we 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,” Kelly said, echoing the president’s disputed words to Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow.
“That was the message — that was the message that was transmitted,” Kelly continued. “It stuns me that a member of Congress would’ve listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.”
Sgt. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, also confirmed Wilson’s account of the call to multiple media outlets and said the president “did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”
Kelly did not condemn Cowanda Jones-Johnson’s public denunciation of the president’s “disrespectful” call.
Earlier this week, Trump politicized the death of Kelly’s son, urging reporters to ask Kelly whether President Obama had called his family.
According to multiple White House officials, Kelly had told Trump ahead of an interview Tuesday that Obama didn’t call him after his son died.
Trump then used that information during the interview when he was asked about his claim a day earlier that past presidents, including Obama, didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers.
“To the best of my knowledge, I think I’ve called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make,” Trump told Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade.
“As far as other representatives, I don’t know, I mean you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?”