White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly criticized Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) for politicizing the "sacred call" between a president and the next of kin to a soldier killed in action.
"In his way, he tried to express his opinion," Kelly said of Trump's phone call to the widow of a Green Beret killed in action in Niger.
"[Green Beret La David Johnson] was a brave man, a fallen hero. He knew what he was getting himself into when he enlisted. He was exactly where he wanted to be with exactly the people he wanted to be with," Kelly said, characterizing Trump's message.
Kelly said he was "stunned" that a "member of Congress would listen in to that conversation." Wilson then ripped Trump for allegedly being insensitive toward Johnson's family.
She relayed that Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband “knew what he signed up for … but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” President Trump later disputed her account.
Kelly said the political attack by Rep. Wilson shocked him.
"I just thought the selfless devotion that brings men and women to die on the battlefield, I just thought it might be sacred," he said.
He said Wilson's behavior upset him so much as a man who also lost his son to war, that he went to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to "walk among the stones" of fallen heroes - "some of whom I put there."
Kelly became emotional when he recounted to the White House press corps what he was told by his Marine casualty officer Gen. Joseph Dunford after Kelly's son was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan.
"He said, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed," Kelly recalled, adding that is the sentiment Trump was trying to convey to the grieving family members.
Kelly also recounted how Wilson previously acted selfishly during another memorial to fallen heroes.
He was present in 2015 when the FBI dedicated its Miami-Dade, Fla. field office to two agents killed in a firefight with drug traffickers.
After some heartfelt speeches, Wilson took the stage and described how she secured the funding for the building.
"I was stunned that she had done that," he said. "Even for someone that is that empty of a barrel."
Kelly previously used the "empty barrels" phrase when South Side Chicago Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) claimed "he's not a general."
"John Kelly's trying to keep his job. He will say anything," says @RepWilson in response to Trump's staff chief who ripped her for disclosing details of controversial call with soldier's widow. "There were other people who heard what I heard." https://t.co/DDer2xmO9S
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) October 19, 2017
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