White House chief of staff John Kelly did not expect President Donald Trump to bring up his son’s death in 2010 in Afghanistan, CNN reported late Wednesday, days after Trump claimed that former President Barack Obama did not call Kelly at the time.
CNN reported, citing multiple unnamed White House officials, that Kelly told Trump that Obama did not call him after his son died, but did not expect Trump to publicly bring it up.
According to one unnamed official, Kelly—and much of Trump’s administration—were caught off-guard by Trump’s remarks.
Trump on Tuesday brought up Second Lt. Robert Kelly’s death when asked whether he had called the families of four Green Berets killed in Niger earlier in October.
“You could ask General Kelly,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show. “Did he get a call from Obama?”
White House visitor records show that Obama hosted Kelly in 2011 at a breakfast for Gold Star families, where Kelly reportedly sat at former first lady Michelle Obama’s table.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday did not answer a question about whether Trump consulted Kelly before bringing up his son’s death.
“I think that Gen. Kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized,” she said. “If he has any anger, it’s towards that.”
Asked whether Trump himself had politicized Second Lt. Robert Kelly’s death, she said, “He was responding to a question and stating a fact.”