It’s official, nothing is sacred anymore.
President Trump bristled Wednesday at claims by a Democratic congresswoman that he was disrespectful and insensitive when calling the widow of a Green Beret killed in action.
He accused Rep. Frederica S. Wilson of making up the story that he told a young Gold Star widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for,” bringing her to tears.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasted the news media for politicizing the most solemn duty of the commander in chief.
“The sentiment of the president was very clear. He took the time to make a call to express his condolences, to thank the family for this individual’s service,” she told reporters at the White House. “And I think it, frankly, is a disgrace of the media to try to portray an act of kindness like that and that gesture, and try to make it into something that it isn’t.”
But the firestorm over Mr. Trump’s condolence call — including allegations he didn’t know the fallen soldier’s name — consumed Washington.
The president’s political foes pounced, claiming it proved Mr. Trump was unfit for the presidency.
Ms. Wilson said she was in the car with Myeshia Johnson on Tuesday when Mr. Trump called to express condolences for the loss of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four special forces members killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.
Mrs. Johnson was on her way to Miami International Airport to meet the body of her husband.
The Florida congresswoman, who heard parts of the conversation on speakerphone, said Mr. Trump told the widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for, but when it happens it hurts anyway.”
She also said the president referred to Sgt. Johnson as “your guy,” which she said indicated he did not know the name of the fallen Green Beret.
Mrs. Sanders would not get into specifics about what Mr. Trump said, but she insisted he was respectful and sympathetic.
“Just because the president said ‘your guy,’ I don’t think that means he doesn’t know his name,” she said. “As the president stated, the hardest job he has is making calls like that.”
She added, “It is appalling what the congresswoman has done and the way she’s politicized this issue.”
Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he had “proof” that Ms. Wilson had fabricated the story.
However, Mrs. Sanders only offered the accounts of others in the room when the president made the call, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general.
“General 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. I think he’s disgusted and frustrated by that,” she said.
Ms. Wilson went on the daytime TV talk show “The View” to expand upon the story. She said that while they were riding in the car, the widow was curled up in the fetal position because she had just learned that they couldn’t have an open-casket funeral because her husband’s body was in such bad condition.
Then Mr. Trump called, she said, only making it worse.
Ms. Wilson, a fourth-term lawmaker who skipped Mr. Trump’s inauguration, said the president owes the family an apology.
“We’re grieving. This is a grieving community,” she said. “It is disgraceful for him to even tweet about this.”
Sgt. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, backed up Ms. Wilson’s account, saying that she was also present during the call.
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Mrs. Jones-Johnson told The Washington Post.
Mr. Trump had already weathered criticism in the news media for waiting nearly two weeks to contact the families of Sgt. Johnson and the three other special forces soldiers killed in Niger.
The president said Monday that he had written letters to the families and planned to call after allowing “a little time to pass.”
The Defense Department is investigating the circumstances of the ambush in Niger, including why Sgt. Johnson’s body was not recovered for 48 hours after the attack.
Sgt. Johnson and the other soldiers killed in the attack — Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright — were part of a 12-member Special Forces team on what was supposed to be a low-risk mission.
They were ambushed by about 50 fighters affiliated with the Islamic State.
U.S. troops have been in the Western African nation since 2013 to help fight Islamic militants such as al Qaeda, Boko Haram and now Islamic State.
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