Aides ‘hustled’ after Trump interview to secure list of fallen soldiers: report
White House aides were “hustling” to secure an up-to-date list of soldiers who died this year after President Trump claimed in an interview earlier this week that he had contacted the families of “virtually everybody” in the military who was killed since he took office, Roll Call reported Friday.
An email exchange between the White House and Defense Secretary James Mattis’s office reportedly shows the White House asking the department for information regarding the families of service members killed after the president’s inauguration in January.
The White House asked for the information on surviving family members so Trump could make sure to contact all of them, according to Roll Call.
The report said that the email exchange came hours after the president said in a Fox News Radio interview Tuesday that he had called nearly all of the families of those killed since he took office.
“I have called, I believe, everybody — but certainly I’ll use the word virtually everybody,” he said.
A White House spokesman responded to the report, telling The Hill, “The White House ensured that the President had contacted all families of soldiers killed in action that had been presented to him through existing protocols.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders used similar language earlier this week, saying that Trump had “made contact with all of the families that have been presented to him through the White House Military Office.”
Multiple media organizations began reaching out to Gold Star families this week after Trump claimed during a press conference on Monday that Barack Obama and other past presidents didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers.
The White House was pushed to defend Trump’s handling of such calls after Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said that Trump told the widow of one of the four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month that he “knew what he signed up for.”
The Democratic congresswoman claimed that Trump was insensitive during the call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson. The soldier’s mother later said that she felt disrespected by the president.
White House chief of staff John Kelly appeared at the White House briefing on Thursday to defend Trump’s call to the family and others.
— This report was updated Oct. 21 at 9:16 a.m.
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