Video Shows Wilson Didn’t Brag About Funding FBI Building, As Kelly Claimed

A video of Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) speech at a 2015 FBI building dedication ceremony, taken by the Sun Sentinel newspaper and resurfaced on Friday, shows that the congresswoman did not brag about securing the funding for the building as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly claimed she had.

Kelly joined the White House press briefing Thursday to defend President Trump’s call to the widow of a fallen U.S. soldier who was close to Wilson. In defending Trump’s comments to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, which Wilson said were hurtful, Kelly criticized the congresswoman for being present for the call and then speaking out about it.

He also brought up a speech Wilson gave in 2015 for the FBI building dedication, claiming that she bragged about how she “got the money” for the building and calling her an “empty barrel.”

Wilson called Kelly’s description of her speech a “lie,” noting that funding for the building had been secured before she ever took office and that she only helped to pass legislation naming the building after two slain FBI agents. The video from the Sun Sentinel appears to support Wilson’s version of events.

In the speech, Wilson describes how she and congressional leaders worked together to pass legislation to name the FBI building, after the starting the process just four weeks prior to the dedication ceremony at the agency’s request. She said it was a “miracle” that the bill passed both chambers and was signed by President Barack Obama in time.

She said that her effort and that of her colleagues who also pushed for the bill “speaks to the respect that our Congress has for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day.”

She then honored FBI agents gathered in the room, as well as the two special agents who died in a gunfight in 1986, Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, for whom the new building was named.

“We are proud of their sacrifice, the sacrifice for our nation. It is only fitting that their names be placed on the same mantel as the FBI,” she said in the speech.

Despite the release of the video, the White House stood by Kelly’s criticism of Wilson’s speech, again calling her an “empty barrel.”

“Gen. Kelly said he was ‘stunned’ that Rep. Wilson made comments at a building dedication honoring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former President Obama on legislation. As Gen. Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Wilson did not note in the speech that she lobbied Obama. She only said that he signed the bill quickly.

After the Sun Sentinel released the video, Wilson touted on Twitter the “proof” for her account of the FBI building dedication speech.

Watch the video of Wilson’s 2015 speech at the Sun Sentinel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.
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