The mother of a soldier killed in an ambush in Africa said Wednesday that President Trump “did disrespect my son” with remarks in a condolence telephone call.
Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Washington Post that she was present during the call from the White House on Tuesday to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson. Johnson’s mother also stood by an account of the call from Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) that Trump told Johnson’s widow that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson said.
Trump lashed back. He denied Wilson’s account in a Twitter message Wednesday. He said he had “proof” that the exchange did not go as Wilson had described. Trump did not elaborate, but the claim again raised questions about whether the president tapes calls and conversations.
Wilson had said that the Johnson family was “astonished” by Trump’s remarks during the phone call, which Wilson said she heard via a speaker phone while riding in a car with the Johnson family.
Wilson told MSNBC on Wednesday that Johnson’s widow was shaken by the exchange.
“She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.”
On Tuesday, Wilson told The Washington Post that Trump had told Johnson’s widow, “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”
Wilson said she was riding in a limousine with Johnson when the president called, and said she heard the conversation on speakerphone.
“He made her cry,” Wilson said.
It’s hard to know how to weigh in on this. But it is not altogether surprising that the fallen soldier, his mother and family, are all black. It’s just plain ODD how Trump seems to have a problem with fallen soldiers OF COLOR.
It’s deeply sad a grieving family is about to be dragged through a national debate in which their claims are a partisan loyalty test, but the mother has weighed in now
So now we have it from the family as well. Confirmation.
Trump continued to deny on camera.
Trump’s denial of insulting Sgt. Johnson’s widow: “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife.”
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 18, 2017
When asked for his “proof” — Trump would not say what it was:
Trump, asked about his “proof” Rep. Wilson was inaccurate in her description of the call, responds: “Let her make her statement again.” pic.twitter.com/lTOwJ7iCFl
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 18, 2017
… because like the Comey tape, there is not proof. Trump the bluffer, caught again.
This is coming right on the heels of football players kneeling at the National Anthem, which Trump and his minions say shows disrespect to our soldiers. And also on the heels of Trump saying he calls the spouses of fallen soldiers and maligning past presidents, particularly Barack Obama, for not calling during their tenure (a veritably false claim that Trump had to back off from when pressed). He backed THAT up by invoking the death of the son of his Chief of Staff John Kelly even though Kelly doesn’t like his son’s death being used for political purposes:
No matter. We see now that soldiers are mere props to Trump — people who signed up for whatever happens to them (so don’t blame Trump, you widows and orphans!)
President Trump is poison. Everything around him gets damaged and degraded. It’s not any one thing. It’s everything. It’s hard to evaluate the dynamics of this call out of the context of waiting ten days, lying about his predecessors, creating this hideous spectacle with John Kelly’s son. Was the family prepped for something off because of the preceding three days? Probably. Was Trump angry about all the criticism? Probably so. It’s a perfect storm. And it all builds out of one man, Donald Trump.
There’s a big debate about Trump and clinical diagnoses. Malignant narcissism is the one most clinicians refer to. But that’s a distraction. You’re talking about someone with a profound selfishness, a jarring inability to experience empathy and a kind of ravenous emotional predation. Someone who is a profound narcissist is inherently erratic and destructive to those around him since he is acting according to his own impulses, angers and appetites with a relative indifference or even a sort of blindness to those around him. They don’t exist. Lots of wreckage is inevitable. That’s what it’s like living, trapped, in a house with an abuser. This is what it’s like living in a country with a President who’s a predator.
He poisons everything. No one gets out undamaged. Some are damaged profoundly.
An inability to experience empathy.
UPDATE — Aaaaand he’s back to the NFL again
The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Also…. from today’s press conference:
No recording of call with fallen soldier’s family, Sarah Sanders tells @CeciliaVega
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) October 18, 2017
Trump’s “proof” of contents of call is staffers in the room, Sanders says.
— Caitlin Huey-Burns (@CHueyBurns) October 18, 2017
UPDATE: As I write this, Whitney Hunter, another Gold Star widow, on CNN says she was told to wait by her phone because Trump would call her “in a few days” to offer condolences on her loss and he never did. Says she wasn’t so much upset if he hadn’t called at all, but rather about the fact that she was told he would call and he didn’t follow through.
Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen but not all. What’s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who’s done better to honor the war dead and their families.
He placed himself at the top of the list, saying on Tuesday, “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died” while past presidents didn’t place such calls.
But AP found relatives of four soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received calls from him. Relatives of two also confirmed they did not get letters. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump — took painstaking steps to write, call or meet bereaved military families.
President Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.
Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, told The Washington Post that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, N.C., a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan police officer in a suspected insider attack June 10. Their phone conversation lasted about 15 minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father’s struggle with the manner in which his son was killed.
“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’ “ Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”
Trump’s offer of $25,000 adds another dimension to the president’s relations with Gold Star families, an honorific given to those whose loved ones die while serving in support of the nation’s wars. The disclosure follows questions about how often the president has called or written to grieving military families.