WASHINGTON — A fallen soldier’s widow criticized president Donald Trump on Monday over his condolence call last week, prompting a fresh Trump Twitter rebuttal as the emotional conflict case showed no sign of abating.
Myeshia Johnson, La David Johnson’s widow, spoke for the first time on ABC’s Good Morning America. In the somber interview, she supported a congresswoman’s statements that Trump had said her husband “knew what he signed up for” and at one point could not remember her husband’s name.
“Yes, the president said that ‘he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.’ And it made me cry ’cause I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said he couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” Johnson said. “The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David.”
The president answered back on Twitter soon after the interview aired, saying: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
Monday’s pointed exchange was the latest in an ongoing dispute over how Trump responded to the deaths of four service members October 4 in the African nation of Niger. The clash over the call began last week when Democratic Representative Frederica Johnson accused Trump of being callous in the conversation and Trump retorted that Wilson’s account was fabricated.
But Johnson backed Wilson’s account, saying that the congresswoman was a longtime friend who was with the family in the car when Trump called Tuesday and that Wilson listened on a speakerphone. Johnson said she had asked for the call to be put on speakerphone so relatives with her could hear.
Said Johnson on Monday: “I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name, and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country why can’t you remember his name. And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier.”
The back-and-forth drew criticism from senator John McCain, R-Ariz., who said on The View Monday: “We should not be fighting about a brave American who lost his life.”
Johnson also said she has received little information about her husband’s death and complained she has not been able to see his body.
“I need to see him so I will know that that is my husband. I don’t know nothing, they won’t show me a finger, a hand.”
The four US soldiers were killed October 4 in Niger when they were attacked by militants tied to the Islamic State group. Confusion over what happened has dogged Trump, who was silent about the deaths for more than a week.
Asked last Monday about his silence, Trump credited himself with doing more to honor the military dead and console their families than any of his predecessors. His subsequent boast that he reaches out personally to all families of the fallen was contradicted by interviews with family members, some of whom had not heard from him.
Representative Wilson criticized the condolence call beginning last Tuesday. She continued to assail Trump, and he fired off insulting tweets, calling her “wacky” and accusing her of secretly listening to the phone call.
White House chief of staff John Kelly entered the fray Thursday. The retired Marine general asserted that the congresswoman also had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building”, rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named.
Video of the speech contradicted his recollection, however. And Sunday Wilson said on MSNBC’s AM Joy that Kelly was a “puppet of the president” and accused him of character assassination.
Johnson, the widow, said Monday, “Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated. What she said was 100 percent correct”.
Asked if she had a message for the president, Johnson replied: “No. I don’t have nothing to say to him.”