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The White House’s Response to a Mission Gone Awry

White+House+Chief+of+Staff+General+John+F.+Kelly+%28Mass+Communication+Specialist+1st+Class+Chad+J.+McNeeley+via+Department+of+Defense%29
White House Chief of Staff General John F. Kelly (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley via Department of Defense)

White House Chief of Staff General John F. Kelly (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley via Department of Defense)

White House Chief of Staff General John F. Kelly (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley via Department of Defense)

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On the evening of October 4, 2017, as President Trump returned from Las Vegas, chief of staff John Kelly informed the President that four American soldiers had died during a mission in Niger. Two weeks later, after a period of silence, President Trump made a public statement about the incident, discussing condolences he had given to soldiers’ families. “I felt very, very badly about that,” referring to the phone calls he made to the families of the victims. “The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers are killed.  It’s a very difficult thing.”

President Trump claimed that previous presidents did not reach out to families of military members who were killed in action. “I was told that [President Obama] didn’t [call] often, and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters. I do, I do a combination of both.”

After the body of one of the fallen soldiers, Sgt. La David Johnson, was returned to U.S. soil, President Trump made a call of condolence to the serviceman’s widow, Myeisha Johnson. Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, a close friend of the family, claimed that Trump’s response was callous in nature after listening to the call on speakerphone. She said the President told Johnson’s widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for … but I guess it still hurt.” Furthermore, the congresswoman stated that the President did not remember the soldier’s name.

Soon, President Trump took to Twitter to dispute the congresswoman’s account, stating that the entire response was “totally fabricated” and referring to the accusation as “Sad!”

In an emotional counter, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he was “stunned” by the congresswoman’s remarks, calling the congresswoman an “empty barrel“. Kelly said that he had personally advised the President on what to say and had modeled his advice on the condolences he had received from General Joseph Dunford after his own son perished on tour in Afghanistan.

Kelly stated that the congresswoman attempted to overshadow the heroism of two federal agents by claiming credit for securing large amounts of federal funding to build a new FBI field office named in their honor.  Footage of the speech disputes this account. Although Wilson did take credit for passing the legislation to name the FBI building after the agents, she also piled ample praise upon the fallen agents and did not claim credit for helping to fund the building.  The White House did not directly respond to the video that contradicts the Chief of Staff’s claims.

Sources: VOA News, CNN, NY Post, Twitter, USA Today

Photo Source: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley via Flickr

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The White House’s Response to a Mission Gone Awry