Friday 17 August 2018

'He knew what he signed up for' - Trump branded 'insensitive' after comments to war widow

Sgt. La David T Johnson, 25, who was killed with three other US soldiers in southwest Niger. Photo: Getty Images
Sgt. La David T Johnson, 25, who was killed with three other US soldiers in southwest Niger. Photo: Getty Images

Chris Graham

US President Donald Trump has been branded "insensitive" after reportedly telling the widow of a soldier killed in north-western Africa that "he knew what he signed up for".

The US president, who has been criticised for not immediately reaching out to relatives of the four soldiers killed in Niger nearly two weeks ago, telephoned the wife of Army Sgt La David Johnson (below) on Tuesday to offer his condolences.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson told CNN she was travelling with Myeshia Johnson on the way to Miami International Airport to see his casket arrive home when the president called.

She said Mr Trump told Mrs Johnson: "Well I guess he knew what he signed up for. But when it happens, it hurts anyway."

"They were astonished," Ms Wilson told the 'New York Post'. "It was almost like saying, 'You signed up to do this, and if you didn't want to die, you shouldn't have signed up'."

The Democratic congresswoman from Florida said the call lasted about three to five minutes and the only words that the widow spoke to Mr Trump were "thank you" at the end.

"It's so insensitive. He should not have said that. He shouldn't have said it," Ms Wilson told reporters.

She later tweeted: "Sgt La David Johnson is a hero. Donald Trump does not possess the character, empathy or grace to be president of the United States."

Mrs Johnson has a two-year-old son, a six-year-old daughter, and is expecting a third child in January.

Footage showed the casket arriving at the airport, draped in the American flag. Mrs Johnson can be seen leaning over it, her body shaking as she sobbed.

The president has been embroiled in a political fight over his response to the deaths of American soldiers.

Defending his record of contacting relatives of slain American soldiers, he said: "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, when I think I'm able to do it."

The comment triggered an immediate backlash, with the US president later softening his claim when challenged a second time.

Mr Trump fuelled the row further on Tuesday on Fox News Radio, saying: "You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?"

John Kelly, a Marine general under Obama, is Mr Trump's chief of staff. His son, Marine 2nd Lt Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

A White House official said Mr Obama did not call Mr Kelly after his son's death, but did not say whether the former president reached out in some other fashion.

Separately yesterday, Mr Trump backed away from a bipartisan deal from two US senators to stabilise Obamacare by restoring subsidies to health insurers, one day after signalling his support for the plan.

The agreement reached by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray would continue billions of dollars of subsidies to insurers for two years to help lower-income Americans obtain medical coverage.

Mr Trump last week announced that he would end the subsidies, potentially creating chaos in the 2018 health insurance markets set up under Obamacare.

Meanwhile, a second US federal judge has blocked Mr Trump's latest effort to restrict citizens from eight countries from entering the United States, dealing another legal blow to the administration's third bid to impose travel restrictions.

US District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland, in a ruling filed overnight, said the plaintiffs challenging the policy were likely to succeed in proving that it violated the non-discrimination law "to the extent that it bars entry by immigrants on the basis of nationality".

Mr Trump's bid would have taken effect this week, but was blocked on ­Tuesday by a US federal judge in ­Hawaii in a ­separate challenge.

Irish Independent

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