The Latest: Trump denies disrespecting grieving family
Oct. 19, 2017
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and honoring the nation's fallen (all times EDT):
President Donald Trump is emphatically rejecting claims he was disrespectful to the grieving family of a slain soldier, as the firestorm he ignited over his assertions of empathy for American service members spread into a third contentious day.
The controversy has generated new turmoil in the White House. After one slain soldier's father accused the president of going back on a promise to send a check for $25,000, the White House said the money had been sent.
The aunt of an Army sergeant killed in Niger says Trump showed "disrespect" to the soldier's loved ones as he telephoned them to extend condolences. Sgt. La David Johnson was one of four American soldiers killed nearly two weeks ago; Trump called the families Tuesday.
The White House says President Donald Trump has sent a $25,000 check he promised to the father of an Army sergeant killed in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump offered the money during a telephone conversation with the father of Dillon Baldrige a few weeks after the 22-year-old was killed in Afghanistan on June 10. The Post reported that White House officials declined to discuss the matter when contacted Wednesday morning.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said later Wednesday that the check has been sent. She did not say when.
Walters also criticized the news media and accused reporters of using a "generous and sincere" gesture made privately by Trump to advance what she describes as a "biased agenda." Walters called it "disgusting."
A White House spokeswoman says Chief of Staff John Kelly is "disgusted" that dealing with military deaths has become "politicized."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Kelly is frustrated that "the focus has become on the process and not that American lives were lost."
Sanders did not directly address whether Kelly knew that Trump would cite the death of his son in Afghanistan to question whether President Barack Obama had properly honored the war dead.
She says Trump had spoken with Kelly "multiple times," but adds: "I'm not sure if he knew of that specific comment, but they have certainly spoken about it. And they have spoken several times."
Asked if Trump politicized Kelly's son's death, Sanders says, "He was responding to a question and stating a fact."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says President Donald Trump has made as much contact as possible with families of slain military service members.
Sanders said Wednesday that there is a protocol created by the White House Military Office for the president to contact the families.
First, the Department of Defense notifies the next of kin. Then, the Pentagon sends information to the White House, which has to then be re-confirmed. Once done, the president reaches out to the family.
Sanders said Trump has reached out to every family that has been authorized by the military office.
The Associated Press found relatives of four soldiers who died overseas during Trump's presidency who said they never received calls from him.
Relatives of two soldiers also confirmed they did not get letters.
Relatives of at least a half dozen people who died in military service since Donald Trump became president say they never got a call from him about their loss.
This, despite Trump's boast that he calls all or nearly all military families when they lose a loved one.
The Associated Press is speaking with military families across the country to see if they got a call from Trump.
Some have not, and feel let down about it.
After Army Sgt. Jonathon M. Hunter died in a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan in August, his family was told to expect a call from Trump. None came.
Hunter was 23 and from Columbus, Indiana.
His father Mark says the family wanted nothing more from Trump than an acknowledgment that Jonathon Hunter had made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
The family spoke with Vice President Mike Pence at a ceremony honoring the return of the soldier's remains.
President Donald Trump is continuing to reject a Florida congresswoman's account that he told the widow of a soldier killed in an ambush in Niger that her husband "knew what he signed up for."
Trump says Wednesday before a meeting at the White House that he "didn't say it at all." He adds: "I had a very nice conversation with the woman, the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said."
Sgt. La David Johnson was among four servicemen killed in the African nation of Niger earlier this month. Rep. Frederica Wilson said she was with Myeshia Johnson Tuesday when Trump called the widow. She said she overheard Trump's words.
The serviceman's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Associated Press Wednesday that the congresswoman's account was correct. She said "not only did he disrespect my son," but also the family.
Trump, asked by reporters about an earlier tweet saying he had "proof"of what he said, the president said: "let her (Wilson) make her statement again and you'll find out."
The mother of a soldier killed in an ambush in Niger is confirming a report that President Donald Trump told his widow he "knew what he signed up for."
Cowanda Jones-Johnson spoke to the Associated Press via Facebook message Wednesday. A Florida congresswoman said previously that Trump made the statement to Myeshia Johnson on Tuesday during a telephone call as she was on the way to Miami International Airport to meet the body of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson.
Jones-Johnson says she was in the car and "the statement is true." She added that "not only did he disrespect my son" but Trump was disrespectful to her son's widow. Jones-Johnson said she did not record the conversation.
Trump said on Twitter that Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson "fabricated" the account.
Like other presidents, Donald Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen and not all.
What's different is that Trump has picked a political fight over the matter.
He boasts: "I think I've called every family of someone who's died."
But AP finds that Trump has not in fact spoken with the families of all the war dead on his watch. At least two never got a call or letter, and another family received no call.
And there's ample evidence presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush pulled their weight in offering condolences, contrary to Trump's assertions.