How Trump made an awful situation worse yesterday — and this morning
This is a photo of Myeshia Johnson crying over the coffin of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, a Green Beret who had been working with an elite U.S. Army Special Forces unit when he was killed in action in northwestern Africa. She has two children and is pregnant with their third. Several reports state that his funeral will have to be a “closed casket” ceremony.
In recent days, the news media has asked justified questions about Donald Trump’s communication – or alleged lack thereof – with the spouses and families of members of the military who have been killed in action overseas, and his false claims about how President Obama handled them.
JOHN YANG: Consoling the families of the fallen has become the latest controversy to engulf President Trump.
To bolster his claim that he does more than his predecessors, Mr. Trump today invoked the dead son of his chief of staff, retired Marine general John Kelly.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To the best of my knowledge, I think I have called every family of somebody that’s died. Now, as far as other representatives, I don’t know. I mean, you could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?
JOHN YANG: Kelly’s 29-year-old son, Robert, a Marine lieutenant, was killed in 2010 when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan, an episode Kelly rarely talks about publicly. Kelly and his wife did attend a 2011 Memorial Day breakfast President Obama hosted for Gold Star families.
President Trump ignited the furor when he was asked about his public silence on four Green Berets killed two weeks ago in Niger.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.
JOHN YANG: Reporters pressed him to back up the claim.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do — all I can do is ask my generals.
JOHN YANG: The response from former Obama officials was swift and forceful.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted this photo and insisted: “Stop the damn lying. I went to Dover Air Force base with 44 and saw him comfort families,” a reference to one of Mr. Obama’s late-night trips to pay his respects to troops killed in Afghanistan.
Stop the damn lying – you’re the President. I went to Dover AFB with 44 and saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military & DEA. pic.twitter.com/HhE4KbTBkJ
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 17, 2017
A few hours after the botched press event, and two weeks after Trump finally got around to calling the widow. Who knows why it took so long – incompetence, lack of respect for the elite soldiers he claims to love, perhaps Johnson’s ethnicity. The call was on speakerphone, and apparently unbeknownst to Trump, Myeshia Johnson’s congresswoman, Rep. Frederica Wilson, was in the car and listening.
… Trump spoke to his wife, Myeshia Johnson for about five minutes. U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, said Trump told the distraught widow Johnson “knew what he was signing up for…but when it happens, it hurts anyway.”
“Yeah, he said that,” Wilson said. “So insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn’t have said it.”
CNN’s Don Lemon spoke with Rep. Wilson last night.
WILSON: We were in the car together, in the limousine headed to meet the body at the airport, so I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker. …
This is a young, young woman, who has two children, who is six months pregnant with a third child. She has just lost her husband. She was just told that he cannot have an open casket funeral, which gives her all kinds of nightmares how his body must look, how his face must look. And this is what the president of the United States says to her? … There’s no reason for the president to be so insensitive, not only to the family of this soldier, but the impervious rhetoric — you know, it’s disrespectful to the family of every soldier that has paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
And our community is livid because this was our hero. We don’t have many heroes in our young men in Miami-Dade county. But he was a hero for us. And we don’t like what was said. …
I was going to curse [Trump] out. That was my reaction at that time. I was livid. But they would not give me the phone. …
This could turn out to be another Benghazi.
And don’t get this writer started on the fact that Trump’s handlers obviously failed to liaise with the family and arrange for the call to take place at home. She was minutes away from receiving the remains of her husband – in a car.
This morning, Rep. Wilson appeared on Morning Joe.
Minutes after the interview ended, an enraged Trump deigned to tweet:
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
No, Mister Trump.
We do not believe you.
You lie with disturbing regularity — especially when someone dares to tear off your “I’m so presidential, I’m the most presidential president ever, believe me” mask.
You just doesn’t care about doing the job properly. And it’s clear that even if you did care, you are intellectually unequipped to do it.