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Myeshia Johnson: Soldier’s widow says Trump ‘made me cry’


Myeshia Johnson: Soldier's widow says Trump 'made me cry'

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Myeshia Johnson wept on her husband's coffin at his funeral in Hollywood, Florida

The widow of a dead US soldier says Donald Trump could not remember her husband's name when he phoned to offer condolences.

Myeshia Johnson, widow of Sgt La David Johnson, told ABC News the president's "stumbling" and tone "made me cry".

But President Trump said that he had used Sgt Johnson's name "without hesitation" and described the conversation as "very respectful".

Sgt Johnson was killed in Niger by Islamist militants this month.

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President Trump's call of condolence made headlines when Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson – who had heard it along with the family – accused him of insensitivity.

Skip Twitter post by @RepWilson

Sgt. La David Johnson is a hero. @realDonaldTrump does not possess the character, empathy or grace to be president of the United States.

— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) October 18, 2017


End of Twitter post by @RepWilson

Myeshia Johnson appeared to confirm Ms Wilson's assertion that Mr Trump had told her her husband had known what he had signed up for when joining the military.

"The president said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways… It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it," she said.

"He had my husband's report in front of him, and that's when he actually said La David. I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband's name."

"If my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risks his life for our country, why can't you remember his name?" she added.

No-win situation

By Anthony Zurcher, senior North America reporter, BBC News

The Donald Trump condolence-call story is a White House headache that shows no signs of abating.

It started badly for the president, as he responded to a question about US military casualties in Niger by questioning how his predecessors had dealt with the families of war dead.

It got worse, as the story morphed into one of an allegedly callous presidential call to Myeshia Johnson, a grieving widow of one of the US soldiers killed in Niger.

Now it's devolved into a he-said, she-said debate. Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson – who knew the slain soldier – and Ms Johnson and her family claim the president mishandled the call, while Mr Trump and Chief-of-Staff John Kelly insist everything went smoothly.

Needless to say, arguing with a war widow is a no-win situation, regardless of who has facts on their side. President George W Bush notably withstood harsh criticism from some bereaved families during the Iraq War without swiping back.

This president is different, which should come as a surprise to no one at this point. His choices could come at a high political price, however.

How did Trump respond?

President Trump defended himself on Twitter on Monday, writing: "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!"

Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2017


End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

He has dismissed the account of the phone call given by Ms Wilson as "totally fabricated".

Mr Trump said he had "proof" that Ms Wilson's account was inaccurate but has yet to provide it.

Speaking to reporters, he said: "I did not say what she [Ms Wilson] said… I had a very nice conversation."

The White House said Mr Trump's conversations with the families of dead servicemen were private.

What do Trump's accusers say?

Congresswoman Wilson told WPLG, a Miami TV station, she had heard the president's "insensitive" remarks on speakerphone.

"That is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn't say that to a grieving widow," she said.

She added: "Everyone knows when you go to war, you could possibly not come back alive. But you don't remind a grieving widow of that".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCongresswoman Frederica Wilson: "How insensitive can you be?"

Ms Wilson also accused Mr Trump of making Myeshia Johnson cry.

Sgt Johnson's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told the Washington Post newspaper that President Trump "did disrespect my son".

She said she was present during the call and stood by Ms Wilson's account of what was said.

How did this row begin?

Sgt Johnson was one of four US special forces soldiers who died in an ambush in Niger on 4 October. Mr Trump was criticised for not contacting the families of the dead servicemen right after they were killed.

He responded to this criticism by falsely claiming that his predecessor, Barack Obama, and other former US presidents had not called the relatives of dead service members.

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Media captionTrump denigrates Obama over false fallen soldier claim

The row escalated when Mr Trump pointed out that his chief of staff, General John Kelly, after his son was killed in Afghanistan, did not receive a call from President Obama.

The White House later said Mr Trump had spoken to the families of those killed in Niger but did not say when.

What happened in Niger?

On 4 October, it was reported that three US soldiers had been killed and two others wounded in an ambush in Niger, near the West African country's border with Mali.

The injured soldiers were evacuated to the Landstuhul Regional Medical Centre in Germany and were said to be in a stable condition.

Two days later, the body of Sgt Johnson was found, making him the fourth American to die in the attack.

But the details of how the ambush happened – and how Sgt Johnson's body went missing – are still unclear.

The US Africa Command said the soldiers had been providing assistance to Niger's "security force counter terrorism operations", and the US defence department said they had died as a result of "hostile fire while on a reconnaissance patrol".

Skip Twitter post by @USAfricaCommand

Update #2: U.S. Africa Command Statement on Situation in Niger –

— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) October 5, 2017


End of Twitter post by @USAfricaCommand

Officials say the attack was probably carried out by an affiliate of so-called Islamic State. Some reports suggest up to 50 militants may have ambushed the group.

Islamist militants, including al-Qaeda fighters, are known to operate in the region.

US troops have been deployed in Niger since 2013. In a letter to Congress in June, President Trump confirmed there were 645 military personnel deployed there to support counter-terrorism missions.

The defence department has confirmed it is conducting a full review of the attack.

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