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Report: White House drafted never-released Niger statement for Trump

Report: White House drafted never-released Niger statement for Trump
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The National Security Council reportedly drafted a statement for President Trump that expressed condolences after four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month.

The statement, a draft of which was viewed by Politico on Wednesday, was never delivered, though it circulated among NSC staff and Pentagon officials. 

Trump has faced scrutiny in recent days for his response to the deaths, particularly over his nearly two-week silence on the ambush and for allegedly making insensitive comments to the widow of one of the fallen soldiers, which he has denied.

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According to Politico, the draft statement reads:

“Melania and I are heartbroken at the news that three U.S. service members were killed in Niger on October 4 while providing guidance and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these brave American soldiers and patriots. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers.

"We are also praying for the two U.S. service members who were injured in the incident. We wish them a complete and swift recovery.

"The heroic Americans who lost their lives yesterday did so defending our freedom and fighting violent extremism in Niger. Our administration and our entire nation are deeply grateful for their sacrifice, for their service, and for their patriotism.”

The ambush happened on Oct. 4 during a routine training mission with Nigerien troops. One of those injured lated succumbed to his wounds.

The White House said after the attack that Trump had been briefed on the matter, and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered a statement during an Oct. 5 press briefing, saying that the administration's “thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the fallen."

But asked on Monday why he had not personally addressed the deaths, Trump said that he had written letters to the soldiers' families and claimed that past presidents, including his immediate predecessor, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaLive coverage: Gillum clashes with DeSantis in Florida debate Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa Republicans bail on Coffman to invest in Miami seat MORE, had rarely if ever called the families of the fallen.

Trump found himself on the defensive again on Wednesday after a Democratic congresswoman alleged that he was insensitive to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger. He denied that he had told the widow that her husband "knew what he signed up for" during a Tuesday phone call, as the congresswoman claimed.

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

But Johnson's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, backed up the version of events as described by Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonTrump, Obamas and Clintons among leaders mourning Aretha Franklin Clyburn rips Trump over Omarosa 'dog' comment: 'I don’t know of anything that has been more troubling to me' Dem lawmaker calls Trump racist in response to 'dog' comment MORE (D-Fla.). 

"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Jones-Johnson told The Washington Post on Wednesday.