White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Thursday that he was stunned to learn that Congresswoman Frederica Wilson listened in on the president’s call to a fallen soldier’s wife.
A retired general who lost his own son in Afghanistan in 2010, Kelly said the call to Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s wife should have been ‘sacred’ and that Wilson should not have repeated President Trump’s words to the Green Beret’s widow.
‘It stuns me that a Member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. I though at least that was sacred,’ he said.
In his remarks, Kelly called Wilson a ‘selfish Member of Congress.’
Wilson shot back telling a reporter for Politico, ‘John Kelly’s trying to keep his job.’
‘He will say anything,’ she added.
A spokesperson for Wilson meanwhile told ABC News that the dispute ‘shouldn’t be about her.”
‘It’s about remembering and honoring this fallen hero and fighting for his family,’ the spokesperson said.
Wilson has previously explained that she was in the car with Johnson’s family when the call from President Trump came in, and that is how she knows exactly what he said.
Kelly found himself at the center of the controversy after Trump suggested during a radio interview that that Barack Obama didn’t call the retired general when his son Robert died.
‘As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,’ Trump told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade on his radio show.
At a White House news conference on Thursday, Kelly said the claim was true – but he wasn’t offended.
‘I can tell you that President Obama, who was my commander-in-chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family, that was not a criticism, that was just to simply say that I don’t believe President Obama called. That’s not a negative thing,’ he said.
In fact, Kelly says he counseled Trump not to call Gold Star families.
Trump said he’d written the families and would be making calls soon. When he did, Wilson, a Democrat who represents Florida, claimed that Trump dismissively told Johnson’s widow Myeshia that Johnson ‘knew what he signed up for’ by enlisting, adding that ‘when it happens it hurts anyway.’
The soldier’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Wilson’s representation of Trump’s words were accurate.
‘Yes the statement is true,’ she said. ‘I was in the car and I heard the full conversation. Not only did he disrespect my son,’ she said, ‘but Trump also disrespected the dead soldier’s father and his widow.’
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that Wilson ‘totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof).’