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Widow of slain US soldier backs up lawmaker's account of condolence call

Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four US soldiers killed in Niger, says US President Donald Trump struggled to remember her slain husband's name during a condolence call
GASTON DE CARDENAS (AFP/File)
Myeshia Johnson says president struggled to remember her husband's name, which Trump subsequently denied

The widow of a slain American soldier said Monday that she was "very angry" about a condolence call in which US President Donald Trump was "stumbling on trying to remember my husband's name".

Shortly after ABC aired its interview with Myeshia Johnson, President Trump published a tweet saying the call had been "a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!"

Myeshia Johnson told "Good Morning America" that Trump's call "made me upset and cry even more".

Johnson also said Rep. Frederica Wilson was "100 percent" correct in her description of the call, which Trump earlier called a "total fabrication".

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

Johnson was among four US soldiers killed October 4 in Niger, where Islamic State fighters have established a presence.

Rep. Wilson, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, said last week that she listened in to part of a group phone call between the president and his grieving widow.

"I didn't hear the whole phone call, but I did hear him say, 'I'm sure he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts,'" she told CNN.

Trump denied making the comments, tweeting Wednesday: "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!"

He later told reporters: "I did not say what she said," and that "I had a very nice conversation."

On Thursday, White House chief of staff John Kelly -- a former general whose son died in Afghanistan -- made an emotive defense Trump, amid controversy over the call.

He blamed Wilson, who made public the contents of the call.

Kelly, who spent nearly four decades in the Marine Corps, said he had advised Trump not to call the families of four servicemen killed in Niger personally, but was disgusted by how the issue had become politicized.

"I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing," he said.

"A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife," he said. "Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred."

Kelly said Trump "called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way he could."

"And in his way tried to express that opinion that he's a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted... and was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken. That was the message."

On Monday, Myeshia Johnson further told "Good Morning America" that she had not been allowed to see her husband's remains.

“I need to see him so I know it’s my husband,” she said.

(Staff with AFP)

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