Trump: “If you look at President Obama and other Presidents, most of them didn’t make calls.”
Developments on Day 270 of the Trump Administration:
Trump Lies to Avoid Blame Over Failure to Recognize Slain Soldiers
Trying to avoid responsibility for his failure to note the killing of four US soldiers in Niger, Donald Trump lies that his predecessor Barack Obama and other Presidents did not contact the families of American troops killed in the line of duty.
Asked why he had not referred publicly to the deaths of the four Green Berets in an ambush in northern Africa two weeks ago, Trump said he had written personal letters to their families and planned to call them in the coming week. He then asserted:
If you look at President Obama and other Presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.
Obama had numerous meetings and calls with the families of slain troops, as well as writing letters to relatives. Before deploying 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, Obama traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to greet the coffins of those who had been killed.
Former officials also recalled Obama’s walks through Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, where the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried; his 23 visits to the wounded at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; and the time he spent with families of the fallen.
In August 2011, after a Chinook military helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan, killing 38 people, including 25 Special Forces troops, Mr. Obama consoled the families of all those killed, according to Jeremy B. Bash, a former chief of staff to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who attended the ceremony.
Trump’s statement brought a heated, hostile response across Twitter, including from Obama-era officials. General Martin Dempsey, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of George W. Bush and Obama, the 43rd and 44th Presidents:
POTUS 43 & 44 and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust.
— GEN(R) Marty Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) October 17, 2017
Former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote, “This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. He then noted Trump’s insults of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq in 2004: “Also Obama never attacked a Gold Star family.”
Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former Deputy Chief of Staff, tweeted:
that's a fucking lie. to say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA – he's a deranged animal.
— Alyssa Mastromonaco (@AlyssaMastro44) October 16, 2017
Trump: “I Felt Very, Very Badly”
Appearing in the White House Rose Garden alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump insisted that he had written letters to the families of the four US soldiers killed in Niger, near the Mali border. He said they would be mailed later Monday or Tuesday, without explaining why they had not already been sent.
Trump also tried to push back criticism with declaration of his plans to call the relatives and an assertion of how much the episode affected him:
I felt very, very badly about that. The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens. Soldiers are killed. It’s a very difficult thing. Now, it gets to a point where, you know, you make four or five of them in one day. It’s a very, very tough day. For me, that’s by far the toughest.”
A senior official said that Trump had planned to speak sooner to the families, that the White House had to wait until the Pentagon’s paperwork was completed.
Later in the press conference, Trump stepped back when asked about his lie over Obama’s visits to troops’ families:
I don’t know if he did. I was told he didn’t often, and a lot of Presidents don’t. They write letters.
President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.
Trump Declares Harmony with McConnell But Says GOP Legislators “Not Getting Job Done”
Donald Trump tries to show harmony with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after months of a deteriorating relationship, but — amid the declared war by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon against the GOP leadership — says Republican legislators are “not getting the job done”.
Trump and McConnell appeared in the White House Rose Garden in an impromptu 45-minute press conference, with Trump dominating the remarks.
Despite trying to humiliate McConnell during the summer amid the GOP’s failure to get a health care bill, Trump proclaimed, “We have been friends for a long time. We are probably now, I think, as least as far as I’m concerned, closer than ever before.”
He continued, “The relationship is very good. We are fighting for the same thing. We are fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts, the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation.”
But in a photo opportunity with his Cabinet — with Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho, McConnell’s wife, two seats away — Trump expressed sympathy with Bannon’s effort to remove some GOP Congressmen standing for re-election in 2018:
I’m not going to blame myself, to be honest. They’re not getting the job done.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 16, 2017
Bannon, speaking to conservative activists last weekend, warned of the imminent demise of McConnell, “Up on Capitol Hill, it’s the Ides of March….They’re just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”
Trump said that he would try to talk Bannon out of at least some of the plans to field hard-right primary candidates against GOP incumbents.