In the wake of the attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers, many questions remain unanswered. What is clear, however, is that President Trump subsequently left people aghast by claiming that he’s better at consoling families of U.S. soldiers than Obama. The president’s claim swiftly led to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) reporting how she’d listened to the phone call between one of the fallen soldier’s widows and Trump, who stated, “He knew what he was getting into.” Although Trump denied saying this, Chief of Staff John Kelly appeared at today’s briefing to admit that, yes, Trump said this. Further, Kelly said that’s exactly how he told Trump to make the call.
It must be noted that Kelly’s own son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, died in 2010 during the war in Afghanistan. In the above clip, Kelly stressed that while advising Trump on calling Gold Star families, “My first recommendation was that he not do it.” Kelly said that he told Trump that he didn’t believe any president had called the families of all fallen soldiers (which apparently explains Trump’s Obama remark). And Kelly said he told Trump to echo the words of Gen. Joseph Dunford, who called Kelly when his son died:
“He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were because we were at war. And when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the President tried to say to the four families the other day.”
Essentially, Kelly has accepted full responsibility for Trump’s statements, however clumsily they may have been made. He went on to trash Wilson, who Kelly says left him “stunned and brokenhearted” with her interpretation of the president’s phone call. Kelly also slammed what he described as Wilson’s “selfish behavior” and failure to respond to young men giving their lives in combat as anything other than “sacred.” Kelly then said he was so distraught by the whole controversy that he took a walk in Arlington Cemetery while wrapping his head around the situation.