By CATHERINE LUCEY, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is defending his call to a fallen soldier’s widow, saying he was “respectful” and did not forget the slain soldier’s name. The widow says Trump’s tone in the phone call angered her and that the president “couldn’t remember my husband’s name.”
Monday’s exchange was the latest in an ongoing dispute over how Trump responded to news that four service members were killed in the African nation of Niger.
Trump addressed the call on Twitter Monday after Myeshia Johnson, La David Johnson’s widow, appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” It was Myeshia Johnson’s first interview after a Democratic congresswoman accused Trump of being callous in the call by telling the widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”
Trump had accused Rep. Frederica Wilson of fabricating the statement. Trump in other tweets called her “wacky” and accused her of “SECRETLY” listening to the phone call.
Johnson confirmed Wilson’s account on Monday, saying the congresswoman was a longtime friend who was with the family in the car when Trump called and listened on speakerphone. She said she had asked for the call to be put on speakerphone so relatives with her could hear.
“The president said that he knew what he signed up for but it hurts anyway,” Johnson said. She added: “The only way he could remember my husband’s name was he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David.”
On Twitter, Trump said: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
The four U.S. soldiers were killed Oct. 4 in Niger when they were attacked by militants tied to the Islamic State. The political conflict has steadily escalated for a week, with Wilson attacking the administration and the president firing off insulting tweets.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly entered the fray Thursday. The retired Marine general asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building,” rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.
Wilson on Sunday asked Kelly to apologize. Speaking on MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” she called Kelly a “puppet of the president” and accused him of character assassination