During a radio interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade on Tuesday, President Trump tried to politicize the death of his chief of staff’s son.
While attempting to defend the inaccurate and widely-criticized accusation he made during a news conference on Monday that President Obama sometimes didn’t call the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty, Trump told Kilmeade, “You could ask General Kelly — did he get a call from Obama?”
Robert Kelly — son of General John Kelly, who currently serves as Trump’s chief of staff — was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
After implying that Obama may not have called Kelly following his son’s death, Trump quickly added, “I don’t know what Obama’s policy was.”
“I write letters, and I also call,” Trump said. “Now sometimes, you know, if you had a tragic event with — it’s very difficult to be able to do that. But I have called I believe everybody — but certainly I will use the word virtually everybody — where during the last nine months, something has happened to a solider, I’ve called virtually everybody.”
An unnamed White House official later told reporters “that Obama did not call Kelly but did not immediately respond to questions about whether the former president reached out in some other fashion,” the Associated Press reports.
During a news conference on Monday, Trump was asked why he hadn’t yet publicly commented on the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger on October 4. Trump admitted he hadn’t yet contacted the soldiers’ families — “I’ve written them personal letters. They’ve been sent or they’re going out tonight,” he said — before pivoting to attacking Obama “and other presidents” who he claimed “didn’t make calls.”
Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s deputy chief of staff for operations, tweeted that Trump’s claim was “a fucking lie,” adding, “To say president obama (or past presidents) didn’t call the family members of soldiers KIA — he’s a deranged animal.”
that's a fucking lie. to say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA – he's a deranged animal.
— Alyssa Mastromonaco (@AlyssaMastro44) October 16, 2017
Later during the news conference, Trump was pressed on his smear against Obama. He quickly backtracked and attempted to blame his generals.
“I was told that he didn’t often [call], and a lot of presidents don’t — they write letters.” Trump said. “Sometimes it’s a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both. President Obama, I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t, I don’t know, that’s what I’ve been told. All I can do is ask my generals.”
Called out on his lie about Obama not calling families of fallen soldiers, Trump tries to pin blame on his generals pic.twitter.com/0KUlKWQR4j
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 16, 2017
Trump also tried to deflect blame following the death of a Navy SEAL during the first military operation he oversaw as commander in chief — a February raid in Yemen that military officials said was approved with inadequate planning.
During a Fox & Friends interview following the SEAL’s death, Trump said Obama and the generals were responsible for the botched raid, which wounded six other U.S. service members and resulted in the death of at least 25 civilians, including nine children.
“Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump said. “This was something that was, you know, they wanted to do. They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do — the generals, who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe.”