Trump doubles down; says he didn't make controversial remark to widow

President Trump on Wednesday doubled down on his denial that he told the widow of a soldier killed in Niger that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

Speaking at the White House, Trump pushed back on details of his call with Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow that were provided by Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonOn The Money: Harley-Davidson decision raises trade tensions with Trump | Senate panel to take up tariff legislation | CBO projects grim budget outlook under Trump | White House objects to measure on reinstating ZTE ban Dem lawmakers seek distance from Waters call for confrontation Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters MORE (D-Fla.), who was in the car with the widow, Myeshia Johnson, during the conversation.

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“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said — didn’t say it at all — she knows it,” Trump told reporters. “I would like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said."

The comments followed an early morning tweet, in which the president claimed Wilson “totally fabricated” her account of the call.
 
Trump said he “had a very nice conversation with the woman, the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman.”

The president’s denials are at odds with Wilson’s description of the conversation, as well comments made by Johnson’s mother, who stood behind the congresswoman’s statements.

"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Cowanda Jones-Johnson, who said she was also in the car, told The Washington Post.
 
The White House later said Trump's chief of staff, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, was on the call, which was not recorded. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Kelly thought Trump's remarks on the call were entirely appropriate.
 
"General Kelly was present for the call and thought it was completely appropriate," she said. "He thought the call was respectful and he thought that the president did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on the part of the country."
 
Wilson first revealed details of Trump’s call with Johnson’s widow late Tuesday, after his body was returned to his hometown of Miami. "He knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt," Trump said, according to the lawmaker.
 
“I still stand by my account of the call b/t @realDonaldTrump and Myeshia Johnson. That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not ‘the woman’ or ‘the wife,’” she tweeted Wednesday after the president spoke. 
 
Trump, asked about his claim that he has “proof” of his account, said “let her [Wilson] make her statement again and you’ll find out.” 
 
Trump’s comments have engulfed the White House in controversy and renewed doubts about his ability to empathize with the families of fallen soldiers. 
 
Wilson was among four U.S. service members killed earlier this month in an ambush by Islamist militants. Military officials have said the soldiers were on a train-and-advise mission with Nigerien forces. 
 
Trump ignited a firestorm of criticism Monday with his response to a reporter who asked why he had waited nearly two weeks to contact the families of the fallen. 
 
Trump suggested he has done more than former President Obama and his other predecessors to make contact with the families of fallen soldiers.
 
“I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday with Fox News Radio.
 
He also suggested that Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, was not contacted by Obama after his son was killed in Afghanistan. 
 
“As far as other representatives, I don’t know. You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said. 
 
The Associated Press reported Kelly was invited to a White House breakfast for families of fallen soldiers in 2011. Kelly and his wife reportedly sat at a table with then-first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObamas greeted by screaming fans at Martha's Vineyard Kamala Harris tied with Bernie Sanders as betting favorite for 2020 Dems The Hill's Morning Report — Election Day drama for Trump MORE.
 
It’s not the first time Trump has feuded with Americans who lost loved ones in conflict. 
 
He sparred with the Gold Star parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, after they spoke out against his campaign during the Democratic National Convention.