White House confirms Trump told soldier's widow 'he knew what he was getting into' before saying it was 'totally fabricated'

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 19 October 2017 20:41
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John Kelly coached Trump to use the phrase "he knew what he was getting into" to bereaved widow

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly says that he coached Donald Trump on what to say to the widow of a US soldier killed in action, and told him to express to her that her husband had acted honourably in making the decision to accept a dangerous position as a soldier.

Included in the advice was a phrase that has stirred controversy in recent days, and one that Mr Trump has denied he used during the phone call: "He knew what he was getting into."

Mr Kelly clarified the context of that statement as well. Speaking to reporters in the White House, he said that he had counselled Mr Trump not to make the call at all, but that the President had insisted.

"He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were because were at war when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth, his friends," Mr Kelly said he advised the President to say.

Mr Trump had vehemently denied saying that the dead soldier knew what he was getting into. Florida Representative Frederica Wilson claims to have overhead the conversation between Mr Trump and the widow, and was the first to tell the press about the contents of the call.

"Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof)," Mr Trump tweeted amid the controversy. "Sad!"

The controversy comes two weeks after four American green berets were killed while helping local troops in Niger, where they were helping prepare those soldiers for the battle against terrorist groups in the area. Mr Trump was initially criticised for what some perceived as a slow reaction to the deaths.

Mr Trump later stirred the pot further by implying that Barack Obama may not have made personal calls to the next-of-kin when soldiers died in battle during his presidency. He later indicated that he wasn't sure what Mr Obama's policy on the matter was.

Mr Kelly noted that Mr Obama had not called his family when his son was killed in action, but said that it isn't necessarily common for a president to call the grieving family of a soldier. Mr Kelly said that letters are sent in most cases, but that many presidents tend to forego a call because families generally want to speak with the soldiers that knew their fallen family members instead.

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