I noted yesterday this great piece of reporting by Roll Call which essentially showed that the White House knew the President was lying from beginning about his claims about calling bereaved families. They then scrambled to get names and contact information from the Pentagon to retroactively make the President’s claims ‘true’ as soon as possible.
Now we have some good follow-on reporting from The Atlantic, showing how the White House started express shipping condolence letters as the crazy week of lies, disgrace and nonsense unfolded.
Reporters for The Atlantic spoke to multiple families who received expressed-shipped UPS packages from the White House on October 20th (Friday), which had been shipped on the 18th.
One passage …
“Honestly, I feel the letter is reactionary to the media storm brewing over how these things have been handled,” Eckels told The Atlantic. “I’ve received letters from McCain, Mattis and countless other officials before his. I wasn’t sure if the fact that the accident that caused Timothy’s death has still yet to officially have the cause determined played into the timing of our president’s response.”
Eckels did go on to say that the letter was “respectful” and “seemed genuine and even mentioned [his son] Timothy’s siblings.”
There’s certainly nothing wrong with catching-up on these letters that apparently had fallen through the cracks. But it’s more evidence of what we learned from the Roll Call piece. The White House did not seem to have an organized process for these condolence communications. Roll Call said when the controversy first spun up they didn’t even have a current list of war fatalities during Trump’s presidency. Some had heard from the White House. Seemingly most or at least a large percentage had not.
It’s important to remember that the President was pressed on a different issue – why he had not publicly mentioned the deaths of the four soldiers in Niger. To the best of my knowledge, no one really had any idea whether the families had been contacted or not. That question prompted a false statement about his own actions and a smear against President Obama (as well as other Presidents). The White House knew from the beginning that Trump’s claims were false. Did they tell him and he ignored the information? Or do they know there’s no point? Either way, staffers at the White House went into clean up mode and all the lying, recriminations and awfulness basically spun out of control from there.