Two weeks after four American soldiers were killed in Niger, Donald Trump called the families of the fallen on Tuesday. In the case of Sgt. La David T. Johnson's family, the presidential call apparently did not go well.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who is personally close with the family, was with Johnson's widow when Trump called, and heard the president's message, which she said was not well received. The fallen soldier's mother, who was also there, added that she felt that the president showed "disrespect" to the family.
Today, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired four-star general and himself a Gold Star parent, appeared in the press briefing room and criticized the Democratic congresswoman's handling of the matter.
In heartfelt remarks about his own tragedy, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a former general whose Marine son was killed in Afghanistan, said Thursday that he was "stunned" by a Florida lawmaker's criticism of President Donald Trump's condolence call to a fallen soldier's wife.
Kelly described himself as "broken-hearted" coming to work at the White House on Wednesday as he saw Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., on news networks disclosing the private details of Trump's call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was among four soldiers killed earlier this month in Niger.
Kelly covered a fair amount of ground at the podium this afternoon, describing in detail how the Defense Department notifies families on the loss of a loved one, and his own experience after the loss of his son, who was killed in Afghanistan.
The president's chief of staff also explained how he counseled Trump once the president decided he'd call these Gold Star families, advising him on what he might say. Kelly explained that Trump "expressed his condolences in the best way he could."
It seemed that the intended message was that Trump had made a good-faith effort, and he should get the benefit of the doubt. At least as of yesterday, David Johnson's family felt very differently.