This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call
Florida Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed she was with the wife of a fallen Special Forces soldier when the woman received a phone call from President Donald Trump. Wilson claims the president had some insensitive words for the grieving young woman.
"He said to the wife, 'Well, I guess he knew what he was getting into,' " said Wilson. "How insensitive can you be?"
The call was to Sgt. La David Johnson's widow Myeshia after her husband was killed in an ambush in Niger with three other soldiers on Oct. 4. The couple had two children and were expecting a third.
President Trump denied the accusation via Twitter, while the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the call as "respectful" and "sympathetic" but asserted that no recordings of the calls exist.
Johnson's mother, who was also listening to the call, then stepped into the media spotlight by affirming Wilson's story.
The White House has since criticized the Florida Congresswoman for politicizing the practice of calling Gold Star Families on the event that their loved one was killed in action. But President Trump opened himself to criticism on this issue as well, by falsely claiming that his predecessors never did anything like it
Enter former Marine Gen. John Kelly, now the White House Chief of Staff.
Read: Everybody should read General John Kelly's speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb
President Trump told reporters President Obama never called then-Gen. Kelly when the General's son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. The White House claims Kelly was on hand for Trump's call to Johnson and saw the conversation as "respectful" and appropriate."
On Oct. 19, Kelly himself took the podium during the White House Press Briefing to explain to reporters what happens when American troop are killed in action, how the remains are transported, how the family is notified, and who sends their condolences.
Kelly set the record straight with how Presidents send their condolences and how it should be done. He confirmed that President Obama did not call his family – not as a criticism, just a fact. And Kelly advised Trump against calling too.
"I recommended that he not do it," Kelly said. "It is just not the phone call they're looking forward to. ... It's not a negative thing."
When Trump decided to call he asked Kelly how to make the call and what to say. He told the president there's no way he would ever understand how to make that call.
"If you're not in the family, if you've never worn the uniform, if you've never been in combat, you can't even imagine how to make that call," Kelly said.
As he continued, Kelly emotionally recalled what Gen. Joseph Dunford, the casualty officer assigned to the Kelly family, told him when Kelly's son was killed in action.
"He [Kelly's son] knew what he was getting into... he knew what the possibilities were, because we're at war," Kelly recalled. "When he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That's what the president tried to say to four families the other day."
Related: This is why John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops
Kelly then lashed out at Rep. Wilson for tarnishing what he believed was one more formerly sacred institution in America. He said he had to go walk among "the finest men and women on this earth. ... You can always find them because they're in Arlington National Cemetery."
Watch the full press briefing below: