Trump speaks to families of Green Berets killed in Niger
President Trump spoke on Tuesday with the families of the four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger nearly two weeks ago, the White House announced.
“President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family’s extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten,” she said.
Trump came under criticism on Monday for his delayed response to the deaths of the four Green Berets, who were killed on Oct. 4 during a joint patrol with 40 Nigerien troops.
The patrol was ambushed by what the Pentagon has described as self-radicalized, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-affiliated militants, killing the four Green Berets and injuring two others.
During the Monday press conference, the president said that he had handwritten letters to each of the families, and that he planned to call each of the families “either today or tomorrow.”
But Trump faced blowback after taking a swipe at Barack Obama and other past presidents, saying that “a lot of them didn’t make calls” to families of fallen service members, which he said he has done “traditionally.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said on CNN’s “Newsroom” earlier Tuesday that Trump’s claims were a “gross mischaracterization of what previous presidents have done.” He also said the commander in chief treated such phone calls like a “routine that we would get to eventually.”
And former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said on Twitter that Obama and former President George W. Bush “cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust.”
“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said during the press conference Monday. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”
When pressed on his statement, the president said he was “told” that Obama didn’t call the families of slain soldiers often.
“And some presidents didn’t do anything,” Trump added.
Sanders defended the comments in a statement later Monday, claiming Trump had merely said that past presidents didn’t always call the families of fallen soldiers.
“The president wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact,” she said. “When Americans make the ultimate sacrifice, presidents pay their respects. Sometimes they call, sometimes they sent a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person.”
Updated: 6:45 p.m.
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