- A Florida congresswoman said President Donald Trump offended the widow of a soldier killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month when he called her on Tuesday to offer his condolences.
- Trump disputed the congresswoman’s characterization of the call, calling it a fabrication and adding that he had proof it was so, though he did not elaborate.
- The soldier’s mother said the congresswoman’s account of the conversation was accurate.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he had proof that a Democratic congresswoman “fabricated” her account of a call that he’d made on Tuesday to the widow of a soldier killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month.
But that soldier’s mother said the congresswoman was correct in her characterization of what Trump said, telling The Washington Post that Trump disrespected her son and daughter-in-law.
Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida told the Miami ABC affiliate WPLG on Tuesday that Trump had told Myeshia Johnson — the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four troops killed during a mission in Niger — that “He knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway.”
“So insensitive,” Wilson told WPLG. “He should not have said that — he shouldn’t have said it.”
Wilson said she was riding in the car with Myeshia Johnson, who was on her way to the airport to receive her husband’s body, when Trump called.
Wilson then told MSNBC on Wednesday morning that the soldier’s widow was “crying the whole time” and that when she hung up the phone, she looked at Wilson and said, “He didn’t even remember his name.”
Wilson added that Trump “was almost like joking.”
“He said, ‘Well, I guess you knew’ — something to the effect that ‘he knew what he was getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway,'” Wilson said. “You know, just matter-of-factly, that this is what happens, anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. That’s the way we interpreted it. It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”
Trump responded to Wilson’s comments on Wednesday morning, claiming she “totally fabricated” her account of his remarks.
“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” Trump tweeted, though he did not elaborate.
Shortly after that tweet, the soldier’s mother told The Post via Facebook Messenger that Wilson’s account of the conversation was accurate.
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Cowanda Jones-Johnson told The Post. Though she declined to elaborate, she said “yes” when asked whether Wilson’s account was true, The Post reported.
A White House official told The Post in a statement that Trump’s “conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.”
Speaking to the press during a White House meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, Trump again pushed back on Wilson’s account of what he said.
“Didn’t say it at all,” he said. “She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said and I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”
When a reporter asked Trump at a press conference on Monday why he had not publicly mentioned the soldiers killed in the Niger ambush, Trump asserted that President Barack Obama did not call the families of slain service members — a false claim that was met with scorn from former Obama administration aides. Trump backed off the claim slightly when pressed further by reporters.
After the initial backlash to his comments, Trump told Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade to ask his chief of staff, John Kelly, whether Obama called him when his son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.