In a rare appearance, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, delivered emotional and clarifying comments in the wake of a national debate involving criticism of President Trump’s phone call to a widow of one of the soldiers recently killed in Niger.
Speaking in the White House briefing room, Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general, rebuked the recent comments from Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) and said he had told the president what he was told when he received news that his son, Second Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
“He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed,” Mr. Kelly said. “He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we were at war.”
“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday, and brokenhearted, when I saw what a member of Congress was doing,” he said.
Mr. Kelly went on to offer stirring criticism of a news media, and an American public, that fail to grasp the heart wrenching process of casualty notification. He described it in painful detail.
“The casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member,” said Mr. Kelly.
He said that presidents do not necessarily make phone calls to every family of a fallen service member, as President Obama had not called him after he received news of his son’s death.
Mr. Kelly went on to state frustration over the fact that Ms. Wilson exposed the conversation between the president and Sergeant Johnson’s widow, as she was in the vehicle with the family when Mr. Trump made the call.
“I thought at least that was sacred.”
Ms. Wilson publically criticized the president’s call saying that Mr. Trump had said to Sergeant Johnson’s widow that “he knew what he signed up for.” She added that the family found these comments offensive.
Mr. Kelly went on to express that he was so fraught Wednesday that he took a somber walk to Arlington cemetery to be with those who had died fighting for the US.