A ‘Stunned’ John Kelly Hammers Florida Congresswoman
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Thursday he was “stunned” to hear a member of Congress listened to and politicized a phone call President Donald Trump made to a Gold Star family this week, adding that he opted to walk among the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery for 1.5 to chill and reflect.
Chief of Staff Kelly took the podium during Thursday’s White House press briefing and addressed the controversy that erupted this week after Rep. Frederica Wilson, (D-Fl) accused President Trump of being insensitive to a late soldier’s wife when he called her to express his sorrow for her loss.
John Kelly, a retired US Marine General who lost his son in Afghanistan, said he was “stunned” and “broken-hearted” to learn Ms. Wilson politicized the phone call and violated something that’s “maybe the last thing that is held sacred in our society.”
Gen. Kelly said he recommended that President Trump not call the families of 4 soldiers who were killed earlier this month in Niger, noting that it’s an extremely difficult phone call to make. He said the calls Gold Star families receive from their loved ones’ fellow soldiers are generally more meaningful than the letters they receive from the Military and the President.
“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. Let me tell you what I tell them,” said Gen. Kelly, who got emotional several times while speaking. “Let me tell you what my best friend Joe Dunford told me. He was my casualty officer [when my son was killed].
“He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. When he died, when the 4 cases we’re talking about, Niger, my son’s case, Afghanistan, when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth, his friends.”
Gen. Kelly said that was what Trump told the aforementioned gold star families this week, not something that would have appeared insensitive or inappropriate.
“That’s what the President tried to say to four families the other day. I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and broken-hearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the President of the United States to a young wife.”
The soldier is “a brave man, a fallen hero. He knew what he was getting into. He enlisted. It’s where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken. That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted. It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. I thought at least that was sacred.”
Gen. Kelly said when he read the headlines Wednesday morning regarding Ms. Wilson’s comments, he was shaken up and angry to the point that he had to leave the White House and pay a visit to fallen soldiers.
“The only thing I could do to collect my thoughts is to go and walk among the finest men and women on this Earth,” Kelly said. “You can always find them. They’re in Arlington National Cemetery. I went over there for 1.5 hours, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.”