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Trump accused of disrespecting family of slain US soldier

  • Thomas Watkins

    Agence France-Presse

Washington, United States   /   Thu, October 19, 2017   /   11:16 am
 Trump accused of disrespecting family of slain US soldier Undated official army photo released by the US Department of Defense shows Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, who was killed on Oct. 4, 2017 in southwest Niger. Johnson was among four US soldiers killed earlier this month in Niger, where Islamic State fighters have established a presence. US President Donald Trump told the widow of a soldier killed during an ambush in Niger (Agence France -Presse/US Department of Defense)

US President Donald Trump was snarled in fresh controversy Wednesday after he was accused of being disrespectful to a US soldier slain in an ambush in Niger, as well as showing insensitivity to the grieving family.

Trump moved quickly to dispute descriptions of his conversation with the pregnant widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, 25, who was one of four US service members killed in a jihadist ambush October 4.

But two accounts of his condolence call suggest the president struggled to convey an empathetic tone.

"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Sergeant La David Johnson's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told the Washington Post.

She said she agreed with an earlier account of the call, given by a lawmaker who said she heard part of the conversation and accused Trump of insensitivity for telling Johnson's pregnant widow Myeshia Johnson that the young soldier "knew what he was signing up for."

"I didn't hear the whole phone call, but I did hear him say, 'I'm sure he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts,'" Frederica Wilson, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, told CNN.

Trump denied making the comments, tweeting Wednesday: "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!"

He later told reporters: "I did not say what she said," and that "I had a very nice conversation."

When asked about what proof he could offer, Trump said: "Let her make her statement again then you will find out."

Johnson was among four US soldiers killed October 4 in Niger, where Islamic State fighters have established a presence.

The military has released few details about what happened, and on Tuesday Senator John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Trump administration was not being forthcoming with information.

The Miami native's body was returned home Tuesday afternoon. His wife Myeshia, who is expecting the couple's third child, sobbed loudly while cradling his coffin after it was taken off a military plane.

After Trump's call, Myeshia "was crying, she broke down. And she said 'he didn't even know his name,'" Wilson said, referring to Trump and the dead soldier.

Trump had faced criticism for not contacting the families of the soldiers killed in Niger right away.

On Monday, he said he had written them letters and would call soon, while accusing his predecessor Barack Obama of neglecting to call as many grieving families as himself.

He also suggested on a call to Fox News radio Tuesday that Obama had not made a condolence call to retired Marine general John Kelly, Trump's White House chief of staff, after his son was killed in action in Afghanistan.

The statements sparked outrage from former Obama aides, who said Trump's claims were baseless.