“He Knew What He Signed Up For,” Trump Tells Army Widow

President Donald Trump speaks as he stands next Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., after their meeting at the White House, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP
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A disturbing report out of Florida. This comes from the local ABC affiliate in Miami-Dade …

U.S. President Donald Trump told U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Tuesday that “he knew what he signed up for …but when it happens it hurts anyway,” when he died serving in northwestern Africa, according to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens.

“Yes, he said it,” Wilson said. “It’s so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn’t have said it.”

The president called about 4:45 p.m. and spoke to Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, for about five minutes. She is a mother to Johnson’s surviving 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The conversation happened before Johnson’s remains arrived in a commercial Delta Airlines flight at Miami International Airport.

I want to be very specific about what we do and do not know here.

As the copy reads, this is not a first hand account. According to the report from the local CBS affiliate, Rep. Wilson was in the car with Myeshia Johnson on the way to the airport to receive her husband’s remains when the President called. So Wilson was a partial eyewitness, but may not have heard the President’s words directly. If not, Johnson may have repeated them to Wilson immediately after. We don’t know based on these news reports.

At a minimum she was there to get a sense of Johnson’s response to the call.

[ed.note: A report in The Washington Post says Wilson heard the entire conversation on the speakerphone in the limousine sitting next to Johnson. Here’s video of Rep. Wilson giving her account of what the President said.]

Earlier this evening, Sarah Sanders released this statement about the calls: “President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger. He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten.”

As I wrote this afternoon, it is hard to imagine how difficulty it must be for every President to make these calls. But what is described her is not out of character for the President who frequently even in public seems unable even to fake the basic forms of empathy. Think of the comments about the great turnouts at hurricane shelters, telling people he hopes everyone has a great time. Trump seems to have a basic and profound inability to experience or even fake empathy. So these jarring moments happen again and again. As a friend just messaged me in response to this story, “He knew what he signed up for” is something you might expect a grieving widow to say back to the President. But it’s not for him to say.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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