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Evidence contradicts Trump claims on calls to soldiers' families

When Donald Trump boasted that he's called "virtually" every family of fallen soldiers, he was lying -- and the White House knew it at the time.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.

Donald Trump's timing could've been better. When Sgt. La David Johnson's remains arrived at Dover Air Force Base, the president was golfing. On Saturday, Johnson was laid to rest, and Trump spent part of Saturday morning tweeting not about the fallen hero ahead of his funeral, but taking juvenile  shots at Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who mentored Johnson and is close with his family.

And then the president went golfing again.

Complicating matters is Trump's demonstrable dishonesty on his interactions with the families of American soldiers killed in action. As part of his self-aggrandizing boasts last week, the president told Fox News Radio, "I have called, I believe, everybody -- but certainly I'll use the word virtually everybody." The Associated Press found soon after that of the 20 families who lost loved ones since Trump took office, half had not heard from the president.

Roll Call reported late last week that the White House apparently knew that Trump's boast wasn't true.

In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate -- but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year, the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.

What's more, The Atlantic reported over the weekend that, in a mad dash to deal with the president's false claim, the Trump administration has begun "rush-delivering letters from the president to the families of servicemembers killed months ago."

In other words, Trump World is trying to make true what clearly was not true.

At a certain level, I can appreciate the fact that this president's strained relationship with reality makes developments like these predictable. To be at all familiar with Trump's record is to instinctively suspect the truth is the opposite of what he says it is.

But even for Donald Trump, communications with the families of fallen soldiers is a strange thing for a president to lie about.