White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly on Thursday defended President Trump’s call to the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger.
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“If you elect to call a family like this it is about the most difficult thing you could imagine. There’s no perfect way to make that phone call,” Kelly told reporters during an impromptu appearance at the White House press briefing.
The retired Marine General lashed out at Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) saying he was "stunned" by the Congresswoman’s negative description of Trump's call to the Gold Star widow of Army Sgt. Johnson.
“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday, and broken hearted, when I saw what a member of Congress was doing,” Kelly told reporters during an impromptu appearance at the White House press briefing.
He went on to say, “It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me and I thought at least that was sacred.”
After hearing the Florida Congresswoman chastise the President for making the condolence call, Kelly said he found himself distraught over the reaction that it led him to walk through Arlington National Cemetery.
“The only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they are in Arlington National Cemetery," he said.
The White House Chief of Staff said he advised Trump against calling the wife of Sgt. Johnson because of how difficult it is to deliver such a tragic message. However, the President insisted to Kelly it was the right thing to do.
“He said to me, ‘What do I say?’ ‘I said to him, ‘Sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families,’” he said.
Kelly, whose son Second Lt. Robert Kelly died in Afghanistan in 2010, somberly described how a U.S. service family member is notified when a soldier is killed in action, saying an officer knocks on the door of the family’s home after the first light comes on early in the morning to deliver the devastating news.
“When my son was killed his friends were calling us from Afghanistan, telling us what a great guy he was,” he said.