The Latest: White House defends Kelly in fight over war dead
Oct. 21, 2017
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on a dispute over White House condolence calls to military families (all times EDT):
The White House is defending chief of staff John Kelly after he mischaracterized the remarks of a Democratic congresswoman.
Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says it is "inappropriate" to question a retired four-star general such as Kelly.
The administration also insisted it's long past time to end the political squabbling over President Donald Trump's compassion for America's war dead, even as it lobbed fresh vilification at Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson.
Kelly said Wilson delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building." Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.
For her part, Wilson is bringing race into the dispute, telling The New York Times, "The White House itself is full of white supremacists."
A senior Republican senator says members of the Armed Services Committee will be briefed next week about the fatal attack on four American soldiers in the African nation of Niger.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says the committee's GOP chairman, John McCain of Arizona, is arranging the meeting.
Graham, who met Friday with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, warns against jumping to conclusions about what happened.
He says, "Sen. McCain's going to set up a process . . . so we can be briefed as to what we know now, and how did it go bad, what happened, and how can we fix this in the future."
Graham says: "In war you fail. You make mistakes. The whole goal is to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them."
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is disputing a White House assertion that it's not appropriate to question a four-star general.
Asked Friday if he agrees with Sarah Huckabee Sanders' argument, Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill, "No, not in America."
At issue are comments by White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, about a Democratic congresswoman who criticized President Donald Trump.
Kelly's comments Thursday included some inaccuracies, but Sanders told the White House press corps Friday, "If you want to go after General Kelly, if you want to go after a four-star Marine General, that's highly inappropriate."
Graham didn't elaborate on his response, but he did say, "I just think a member of Congress should have some discipline and so should the president."
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has met with the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee as lawmakers demand answers two weeks after an ambush in the African nation of Niger killed four U.S. soldiers.
Mattis and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona spoke privately at the lawmaker's Capitol Hill office on Friday. Emerging from the meeting, the defense secretary pledged better lines of communication with Congress.
McCain has threatened a subpoena, frustrated with what he says is a slow response for information from the Trump administration.
McCain said, "I felt we were not getting a sufficient amount of information and we are clearing a lot of that up now."
Earlier this week, McCain said he would hold up Trump's nominees for key Defense Department posts until the administration delivers details about its new strategy for the war in Afghanistan.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is criticizing a Democratic congresswoman who clashed with the president over his condolence call to a military widow.
Sanders told reporters at a White House briefing on Friday: "As we say in the south: All hat, no cattle."
Earlier this week, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Rep. Frederica Wilson an "empty barrel," and accused her of grandstanding at the dedication of a Miami FBI office in 2015. A tape of the event showed that Kelly had gotten the details wrong.
Still, Sanders said it was inappropriate for Wilson to make the event "about herself."
Sanders also was asked about complaints by family members about the president's condolence call.
She says if Trump's words were "misunderstood, that's very unfortunate."
The White House is defending the president's chief of staff after he mischaracterized the remarks of a Democratic congresswoman who criticized the president's condolence call to the widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger.
John Kelly on Thursday criticized Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida as an "empty barrel," claiming she'd delivered a speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building."
Video of the speech obtained by Florida's Sun Sentinel shows Wilson never mentioned the building's funding, but did recount her efforts to name the building after two special agents who had been killed.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, glossing over the details, said: "If you're able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you're an empty barrel."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is defending Rep. Frederica Wilson after she's come under attack from President Donald Trump.
Pelosi calls Wilson "a wonderful kind person" who's accomplished a lot. Trump has criticized Wilson for listening to and criticizing his condolence call to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger.
Pelosi says "the fact they would put a president's call on a speaker phone is not unusual, I'm sure there were other people listening at the White House as well."
Appearing on ABC's "The View," Pelosi says: "Let's just take down the heat on this, bring it to a place where there's no doubt in anyone's mind that we respect our men and women in uniform."
A Florida congresswoman says White House chief of staff John Kelly lied when he said she took credit two years ago for securing funding for an FBI field office in south Florida.
Rep. Frederica Wilson says in an interview with CNN on Friday that she wasn't in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured.
Wilson says she named the building at the request of then-FBI Director James Comey.
She says Kelly "needs to stop telling lies on me."
Kelly denounced the congresswoman at a White House briefing on Thursday after she publicly criticized President Donald Trump's comments during a phone call with the widow of a fallen soldier.
White House chief of staff John Kelly is defending President Donald Trump against accusations of insensitive outreach to a grieving military family.
Kelly is a retired three-star general whose son was killed while serving in Afghanistan. On Thursday he dressed down the Democratic congresswoman who had criticized Trump for comments she said he had made in a condolence call to the pregnant widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger.
Kelly called Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida an "empty barrel" who "makes noise," but he did not deny the lawmaker's account of the phone call.
The uproar over Trump and how presidents should or shouldn't try to console families of the fallen has rattled the White House and overshadowed the rest of Trump's agenda in recent days.