President Trump's Chief of Staff, Ret. Gen. John Kelly, defended the president's handling of a phone call to the family of a fallen solider that has been widely criticized, but Kelly also criticized the politicization of Gold Star families in general.
Kelly launched into a detailed account of what happens when a service member dies, and offered comments on the conduct of the congresswoman who was with the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger.
He then addressed the recent controversy over President Trump's call on Tuesday to the family of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson.
“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly said, in reference to what Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat from Johnson's hometown, told the press soon after the president made the phone call to Johnson's mother.
Wilson told local press that the president told Johnson's mother that he “knew what he signed up for…but when it happens it hurts anyway.” The mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, later said Rep. Wilson's recounting of the call was correct, and told the Washington Post that, “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”
At Thursday's press conference, Kelly defended President Trump's phone call.
“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 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.
“That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted. It stuns me that a member of congress would have listened in on that conversation,” Kelly added of Rep. Wilson's actions. “And I thought at least that was sacred,” Kelly said.
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