John Kelly rebukes Trump's critics over military death

ANI | Updated: Oct 20, 2017 05:16 IST

Washington [United States] October 20 (ANI): White House chief of staff John Kelly has rebuked the critics of United States President Donald Trump's handling of the families of fallen U.S. military heroes.

The Guardian reported that Kelly made an unannounced appearance at the White House podium on Thursday afternoon amid an unprecedented feud between Trump and Frederica Wilson, a Democratic congresswoman, who overheard the President telling the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson that her husband "knew what he signed up for" before he was killed on duty in Niger.

Breaking years of silence over the death of his own son in Afghanistan, Kelly said he was "broken-hearted" by the politicisation of troops who died on the battlefield.

"It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation, absolutely stuns me," said Kelly, while adding, he was so incensed by the episode that he "walked among the stones" at Arlington cemetery for an hour and a half on Wednesday.

However, he failed to acknowledge that this week's commotion began when Trump launched an unprompted attack on his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush over their outreach to bereaved military families.

Kelly went on to offer a protracted justification for what he said was Trump's attempt to offer his condolences to Johnson's wife, Myeshia.

Kelly said there was "no perfect way to make that phone call".

Recounting the day when he was informed of his son's death, Kelly recalled his close friend General Joseph Dunford arriving at his doorstep.

Dunford had told him his son "was doing exactly

what he wanted to do when he was killed", Kelly recalled.

"He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent," Kelly said, adding, "He knew what the possibilities were, because we're at war."

Kelly added that this was what the President tried to say to the four families the other day.

Describing Trump as "brave" for making the calls, Kelly said the President had sought his counsel on how to handle them.

Trump claimed earlier this week that former presidents did not contact the families of fallen troops.

In particular, Trump said Obama did not call Kelly after his son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Trump's remark prompted former Obama administration officials to reveal that six months after his son's death, Kelly and his wife had been invited to a White House breakfast for bereaved Gold Star military families and sat at Michelle Obama's table.

Kelly confirmed on Wednesday that he did not receive a call from Obama, but clarified that presidents did not always reach out by phone to grieving families and often chose instead to write letters.

"That was not a criticism," Kelly said of Obama.

"That's not a negative thing."

"These young people (soldiers) today, they don't do it for any other reason than their sense of selfless devotion." (ANI)