White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly thought Trump’s phone call to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger was “respectful” and “completely appropriate.”
“He thought the call was respectful,” Sanders said during her daily briefing, “and he thought that the President did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on behalf of the country.”
She claimed Kelly thought Trump’s remarks to Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow, were “completely appropriate.”
Johnson’s mother Cowanda Jones-Johnson, however, told the Washington Post that Trump “did disrespect” her son, her daughter, herself and her husband during the call.
Trump on Tuesday cited Kelly’s son, Second Lt. Robert Kelly, who died in Afghanistan in 2010, when asked whether he had called the families of the soldiers killed in Niger.
“You could ask General Kelly,” Trump said. “Did he get a call from Obama?”
Asked how Kelly felt about Trump’s citation of his son’s death as a political football, Sanders did not say whether Trump consulted Kelly before deploying the talking point, but claimed he was “disgusted” by the politicization of the soldiers’ deaths.
“I think that Gen. Kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that American lives were lost,” she said. “I think he’s disgusted and frustrated by that. If he has any anger, it’s towards that.”
Pressed on whether Trump’s remarks about Second Lt. Robert Kelly’s death themselves amounted to a politicization, Sanders said, “He was responding to a question and stating a fact.”