President Trump is disputing the account of Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who says that he told the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson that the fallen soldier “knew what he signed up for.”
“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof),” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Sad!”
In an interview with CNN’s “New Day,” Wilson responded to Trump.
“I have proof too,” she said. “This man is a sick man. He’s coldhearted and he feels no pity.”
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
On Tuesday afternoon, the White House said Trump spoke on the phone with Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, and the families of the three other Green Berets killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4.
Wilson, who was with the grieving widow when Trump spoke with her, said the president spoke “sarcastically” when he said the 25-year-old soldier “knew what he signed up for.”
“But when it happens, it hurts anyway,” Trump added, according to Wilson.
“How could you say that to a grieving widow?” Wilson told a Miami television station shortly after the phone call. “And he said it more than once. I said this man has no feelings for anyone. This is a young woman with child who is grieved to her soul.”
Wilson said that Johnson’s widow also told her that the president did not appear to know her husband’s name.
“I asked them to give me the phone because I wanted to speak with him,” Wilson told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night. “And I was going to curse him out. That was my reaction at that time. I was livid. But they would not give me the phone.”
Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told the Washington Post that Wilson’s account was accurate.
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson said.
Trump’s response to the soldiers’ deaths has come under intense scrutiny this week following a Rose Garden press conference in which the president falsely claimed that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush did not call families of fallen soldiers.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”
On Tuesday, Trump refused to clarify the remarks — and in the process he invoked White House chief of staff John Kelly’s dead son, who died while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
“There’s nothing to clarify,” Trump said in a Fox News Radio interview. “I think I’ve called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make. And I said it very loud and clear yesterday. The hardest thing for me to do is do that. Now, as far as other representatives, I don’t know. I mean, you could ask Gen. Kelly did he get a call from Obama. You could ask other people. I don’t know what Obama’s policy was. I write letters, and I also call.”
Trump made the calls to the four families of soldiers killed in Niger on Tuesday afternoon, more than 12 days after their deaths.
“President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement late Tuesday. “He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten.”
On “New Day,” Wilson said that she intends to request a classified briefing from the Defense Department about the deadly ambush.
“This might wind up to be Mr. Trump’s Benghazi,” Wilson said.
Speaking to reporters at the White House late Wednesday morning, Trump again disputed Wilson’s account of his call with Johnson’s widow — and falsely claimed the Florida Democrat had since taken it back.
“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said; didn’t say it all,” the president said. “She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said, and I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”
Trump added: “Let her make her statement again.”
Wilson, who had already repeated her assertions on MSNBC and ABC’s “The View,” did so on Twitter as well.
“I still stand by my account of the call [between] @realDonaldTrump and Myeshia Johnson,” Wilson tweeted. “That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not ‘the woman’ or ‘the wife.’”
I still stand by my account of the call b/t @realDonaldTrump and Myeshia Johnson. That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not "the woman" or "the wife"
— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) October 18, 2017
During a White House press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked what “proof” Trump had that Wilson “totally fabricated” his remarks, and whether there were recordings of his conversation with Johnson’s widow.
“No but there were several people in the room from the administration that were on the call, including the chief of staff,” Sanders said.
Sanders was also asked whether the president has called the families of every soldier who has died since taking office — something Trump claimed Tuesday but later was disputed by the Associated Press.
“The president has made contact with all of the families that have been presented to him through the White House military office,” Sanders said.
She added: “It is appalling and disgusting what the congresswoman has been doing.”
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