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Gold Star Widow Speaks About Trump’s Condolence Call, Trump Calls Her A Liar

Myeisha Johnson

Less than forty-eight hours after she buried her husband, Myeisha Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four Green Berets killed in an incident that the Pentagon has yet to fully explain, spoke to the media this morning and basically confirmed everything that Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson had said last week about President Trump’s condolence call to her after her husband’s death. Her first appearance came in an interview with George Stephanopolous on Good Morning America:

WASHINGTON — The widow of one of four soldiers killed in Niger went on television on Monday to criticize President Trump for how he spoke to her during a condolence call last week, saying the president blundered through the conversation and only deepened her grief because he did not seem to know her husband’s name.

Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed early this month, spoke in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos and also offered words of support for Representative Frederica S. Wilson, Democrat of Florida, who has been feuding with both Mr. Trump and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, over the call.

“The president said, ‘He knew what he signed up for,'” Ms. Johnson said during the interview. “But, it hurts anyway. It made me cry because I was angry at the tone in his voice and how he said it.” She added that Mr. Trump’s memory seemed to falter during their exchange.

“He couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” Ms. Johnson said. “The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because 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. And that’s what hurt me the most. If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?”

She went on and said, “Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated. What she said was 100 percent correct.”‘

(…)

Ms. Johnson said on Monday that she let Mr. Trump do most of the talking as her anger grew during the call. When asked if she wanted to say anything to Mr. Trump, the young widow decided against delivering a message.

She did, however, say that she was desperate to know more details about the disappearance and death of her husband, and described him as “caring” and a “great soldier.” The couple had known each other since she was 6 years old.

“I want to know why it took them 48 hours to find my husband,” Ms. Johnson said.

The back and forth began after Mr. Johnson and three Americans were killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger. The president called Ms. Johnson and said that her husband “knew what he signed up for,” and referred to the soldier as “your guy.” Ms. Wilson, a longtime family friend who accompanied Ms. Johnson and heard the call, recounted what the president said to several reporters and lamented that the president had offended the young widow, who was upset that the president did not seem to know Sergeant Johnson’s name.

Mr. Trump angrily disputed that account, saying that he “had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman.” The White House then accused Ms. Wilson, a well-known figure in South Florida for her work with local communities and for often donning decorative hats, of politicizing a sacred ritual after Mr. Trump initially said she “fabricated” it.

 

In a White House briefing, Mr. Kelly harshly criticized Ms. Wilson, who had known Sergeant Johnson’s family since he was in elementary school, for listening to the call. Mr. Kelly called the lawmaker an “empty barrel” and also misrepresented her remarks when he accused her of bragging about securing $20 million for an F.B.I. building in South Florida and twisting President Barack Obama’s arm.

Video of Ms. Wilson’s speech, released by The Sun Sentinel, a newspaper in South Florida, showed that during her nine-minute speech, Ms. Wilson never took credit for getting the money for the building, only for helping pass legislation to name the building after two fallen federal agents. She also never mentioned pleading with Mr. Obama, and she acknowledged the help of several Republicans, including John A. Boehner, then the House speaker; Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo; and Senator Marco Rubio.

On Monday, Ms. Johnson also pushed back against Mr. Kelly’s criticism of Ms. Wilson for hearing the call. The widow said she had asked the military official accompanying her family to put the call from President Trump on speakerphone so others could also hear his words.

You can read the transcript of Mrs. Johnson’s interview, and watch the video:

As noted, Mrs. Johnson’s statements came less than forty-eight hours after she buried her husband in a solemn ceremony where photographs showed family members of Johnson’s “Bush Hog” battallion breaking down in tears throughout the ceremony. There really isn’t very much one can say about what she had to say. By and large, she confirmed everything that Florida Congressman Frederica Wilson said about the phone call last week, after which both President Trump and White House Chief of Staff called her a liar, and Kelly falsely attacked the Congresswoman for what he called a ‘grandstanding’ speech during the dedication of an F.B.I. Building in Miami in honor of two former agents killed in the line of duty. Lies that Kelly has yet to apologize for. Johnson is also correct to demand answers from the Pentagon about what happened in this October 4th incident in Niger, including the answers to such questions as why we’re in this country that, until last week, most Americans had probably never heard of, why her husband’s patrol was sent out in unarmored vehicles with only light weapons to defend themselves, what happened that led to the death of Johnson and his three fellow soldiers.

Given that this is Donald Trump we’re talking about, it didn’t take long for Trump to call Mrs. Johnson a liar:

To be honest, from the moment it was announced yesterday on Twitter that Mrs. Johnson would be appearing on television this morning I knew that Trump would be unable to resist attacking her if she ended up confirmed what Congresswoman Wilson said. There’s also no doubt that the staff in the White House was as aware of her impending interview as anyone else who saw that announcement. If they were at all competent, or had any control over this President and the Twitter habit that sometimes seems as though he is consciously seeking to undermine his own agenda, they would have taken steps to ensure that Trump didn’t say something stupid in response to the words of a woman who had lost her husband just nineteen days ago, and who buried him less than two days ago, all while being six months pregnant with their third child. Of course, we know that this White House staff has no such control over the President, and so it was inevitable that Donald Trump would once again prove to be his own worst enemy.

I’d say that all of this is surprising, but it really isn’t. Trump has demonstrated for some time now that he will sink to any level and that he will attack anyone who disagrees with him, including the families of men and women who have died in service to their countries. We knew this at least as far back as last July when he attacked the parents Capt. Humayun Khan of after their appearance at the Democratic National Convention. We knew this when he made  outrageous comments about a Federal Judge, attacked Hillary Clinton that accomplished nothing except to regurgitate the arguments of the 90s, and who continues to stand behind his Muslim immigration ban, We knew when he insinuated that President Obama secretly sympathizes with ISIS and Islamic terrorists, and when was making disparaging comments about Mexicans and Muslimsmocking disabled people, attacking women like Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina in the most crass and demeaning manner, encouraging his supporters to engage in violence against supporters, and demonstrating utter disdain for the Rule of Law and Freedom of the Press. The fact that he is now attacking a widow less than two days after she buried her husband is, unfortunately, par for the course.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    For the good of the country, someone take a ball-peen hammer and smash his phones. And cancel his Twitter account. And slap him upside the head repeatedly with a dead fish.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  2. CSK says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:
    You’ll take his phone from him when you pry it from his cold, dead fingers. It’s how he conveys “the truth” to his drooling fans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. James in Bremerton says:

    The U.S. loses its humanity each hour the GOP permits the orange child to play pretend-time “president.”

    It has grown beyond appalling, and getting deep into sociopath.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  4. MBunge says:

    If you don’t want Gold Star families attacked, stop weaponizing them.

    This reminds me of right wingers who think that claiming the Constitution supports their views means that everyone else just has to shut up and agree with them.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 61

  5. Franklin says:

    Trump’s statement only *inferred* she was a liar. This is actually unusual restraint for him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. cian says:

    @James in Bremerton:

    Not quite there yet, but any day now we’ll see Gold Star Family attacking Gold Star Family. Every time we think Trump has reached rock bottom, he finds another layer, and plenty of others to get down in the dirt with him and smear their reputations in the black muddy waste that is Donald Trump’s soul. The country has no choice but to watch this foul drama unfold and with each passing day that shared sense of what is good and right is stained and further soiled. Who knows how the country will recover from this daily onslaught of indecency. Not easily, and not for a long, long time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  7. drj says:

    We knew this at least as far back as last July when he attacked the parents Capt. Humayun Khan of after their appearance at the Democratic National Convention. We knew this when he made outrageous comments about a [Hispanic] Federal Judge, attacked Hillary Clinton that accomplished nothing except to regurgitate the arguments of the 90s, and who continues to stand behind his Muslim immigration ban, We knew when he insinuated that President Obama secretly sympathizes with ISIS and Islamic terrorists, and when was making disparaging comments about Mexicans and Muslims, mocking disabled people, attacking women like Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina in the most crass and demeaning manner, encouraging his supporters to engage in violence against supporters, and demonstrating utter disdain for the Rule of Law and Freedom of the Press. The fact that he is now attacking a [black] widow less than two days after she buried her husband is, unfortunately, par for the course.

    There seems to be a pattern here.

    The Donald flies off the rails in a particular spectacular manner whenever he’s confronted with uppity people (i.e, anyone who’s not a white male) who dare to speak up/refuse to bow down to their biological “betters.”

    In other words, that poor widow was going to get it the moment she opened her mouth.

    One thing is certain: he’s got a thing for punching down.

    @MBunge:

    stop weaponizing them

    Do you even know WTF empathy is?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 0

  8. Pete S says:

    @MBunge: Good call. We all know Trump behaves like a horse’s ass, so for the next 3 (or God forbid 7) years it is up to everyone else in America not to set him off. Got it.

    I assume you have taught all your kids that when a bully picks on them at school it is their fault?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 51 Thumb down 0

  9. the Q says:

    I remember, growing up, if found incorrect regarding an opinion about someone, it was sacred to apologize if that mischaracterization harmed the subject.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  10. Tom M says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    You saw that Monty Python Skit too?
    I’ve always remembered it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. the Q says:

    Anyone notice Trump’s tweets going off on Eminem’s scathing 4 minute rap criticism?

    Me neither.

    Perhaps there is something to his targeting of women and minorities? But then, ask “little” Marco or “lyin’ Ted” or “low energy Jeb” if he singles out just those two.

    He is an equal opportunity lunatic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  12. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @the Q: In case you didn’t notice, “little Marco” and “lyin’ Ted” ARE minorities (I realize they “pass” but that can change in a minute) and “low energy Jeb” married one, so I think it’s still a duck.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  13. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    For the love of G-d, Mike, just STFU already. :roll:

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  14. Senyordave says:

    I thought this was an interesting take on Kelly:

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/23/an-old-colonel-looks-at-general-kelly/

    I don’t know what he was like prior to Trump, I generally assume to become a four star general you probably have a fair amount of personal integrity. But he clearly has been contaminated by Trump, as almost anyone who works for him ultimately is.

    In this whole mess, one thing is definite: Kelly lied to smear the Congresswoman (the Sun Sentinel video clearly shows that). This is not a he said/ she said situation. He owes her an apology.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  15. Senyordave says:

    @MBunge: Trump lied about other presidents not making calls just to smear them. Kelly lied about the Congresswoman taking credit for securing the $20 million in funding just to smear her. BUt somehow it is not in any way their fault. iT is the fault of a woman who lost her husband in service to his country, and a family friend offering comfort. If you can honestly post your comment with a straight face you truly are delusional.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 0

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MBunge: You’re the guy back in grade school who, after the bully got done beating the p!ss out of someone, you went over and spit on them, aren’t you?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  17. reid says:

    @Senyordave: Why do they pick on the poor president? He’s a fighter, you know he’s going to attack back!

    (Sadly, I’m sure there are countless internet posts like that.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Scott F. says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    No one is going to stand in the way of Trump’s Twitter habit, but I don’t think this is because no one is capable of controlling The Donald.

    As Doug noted, there’s no way the WH staff didn’t know that the widow, Mrs. Johnson, would appear on TV today or that Trump would want to respond. This would support a conclusion that allowing DJT to respond on Twitter was a calculated decision. I’d go further to argue, this was likely the right decision for the Trump White House to make at this point.

    Consider this: to allow that ANY Fake News is the truth is to allow that ALL Fake News could be the truth. One hole in the BS dam and the flood is released.

    That means we can look forward to a continuation of the spelunking of the depths to which Trump is willing to sink to avoid admitting error. Plus, more and more of his partners, like Kelly, will get sucked down into the darkness with him.

    And why not? As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For the foreseeable future, Trump’s minions welcome being lied to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  19. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    If you don’t want Gold Star families attacked, stop weaponizing them.

    WTF is wrong with you?! Seriously, weaponized? These are grieving families speaking out about something dear to their heart and you have the utter gall to act like it’s just dirty politics? Like this is some grand pre-planned scheme and its the dirty libs who are making all the probs for poor poor Trump?

    So it seems “Respect the Troops and Veterans” has an asterisk next to it for conservatives. “Respect Only Certain Troops and Those Who Agree with Us”. You think the ones that act like you, think like you, look like you and vote the way you do are the only ones to deserve respect – everyone else is a “weapon” that’s out to get you. They are not allowed to speak nor criticize, their First Amendment rights died with their honored dead. They should be honored the President took time away from the golf course to speak with them and go cry quietly in the corner before being forgotten.

    I do not consider myself part of a Gold Star Family – by the grace of God the closest relatives I have that’s died in combat was my great-uncle in WW2 and some distant cousins in Iraq. But this could *easily* have been me you and yours are smearing for not being good little puppets and making waves. I would type what I really want to say but don’t wanna get banned. May karma treat you as you deserve.

    You don’t ever get to cite the troops as an excuse again, Mike. You and yours have shown you don’t care for them at all.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  20. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    If you don’t want Gold Star families attacked, stop weaponizing them.

    So, are you saying that these Gold Star families knew what they were in for – mocking by the president – when their sons/daughters signed on for military service?

    Also, is it too much to expect 73% of Trump voters to apologize for their vote?
    The other 27%? Hey, there are mental health issues that preclude any such possibility.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  21. An Interested Party says:

    If you don’t want Gold Star families attacked, stop weaponizing them.

    Just as there is no limit to the depths that the Orange Mange is willing to sink to, there is no action he could take that would outrage Mbunge, who is proving himself to be an amazing fluffer for the president he loves so much…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    @MBunge:

    “stop weaponizing them”

    This whole thing started because Trump was asked an innocuous question about whether he’d called the families and, instead of answering with something like, “I will call when our military personnel think it appropriate”, reflexively accused Bush and Obama of not calling families. He then had to make a hasty call that he bungled. He still could have just let it go but by calling Wilson a liar, he forced the widow to talk.

    This is ALL — 100% of it — of his making.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 0

  23. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Senyordave:

    I generally assume to become a four star general you probably have a fair amount of personal integrity.

    Probably it only takes about the same amount that it takes to become, say, the CIO and Goldman Sachs, unfortunately. All “suits” are pretty much the same and personal integrity is rare.

    I had a faculty associate (substance abuse counseling) who used to say that the difference between a serial killer and a CEO was that the CEO directed his sociopathy toward a goal that society would approve of–or at least overlook.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Hal_10000: Actually, it’s even weirder than that. (Because, Trump.) Trump was asked why he hadn’t mentioned the soldiers who had died in Niger. His response? Obama never called the families of dead soldiers. WTF?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  25. Davebo says:

    @MBunge: You’re an annoyingly loud empty Bunge barrel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    If Trump raped a child on the White House lawn @MBunge would blame the child’s parents and the media.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  27. wr says:

    @KM: “WTF is wrong with you?! Seriously, weaponized?”

    That’s what I thought, too. Then I discovered he was just parroting a Fox News talking point, and that was so sad and pathetic I couldn’t bring myself to respond.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  28. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: That brat knew what she was getting herself in for when she signed up for the Easter Egg Roll.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  29. MikeSJ says:

    One of the many things that disturbs me greatly about Trump isn’t Trump himself. It’s his legion of followers.

    Trump is Trump. Anyone who paid attention to him for 5 minutes during the election clearly saw that he is a ignorant nasty buffoon. He is acting exactly like I expected him to.

    This, to me, is similar to the situation with Sandusky. What shocked me so much then wasn’t Sandusky (an active child molester) but I get that these types exist and prey on children. It’s horrible but not shocking. What was shocking was the people around him – University staff, the University President – who knew exactly what he was doing and covered up for him. Unbelievable. I truly did not think people would allow this to go on and not act up.

    That’s the same feeling I have about Trump supporters. How could anyone think this grotesque buffoon is capable of being president? At this point there’s a good argument to be made (watch his interviews and listen to him try to answer questions) that he has some dementia creeping in.

    And yet we have millions of Americans who think that’s not a problem and continue to support this freak.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  30. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MBunge: Have you, no sense of decency Sir?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  31. Barry says:

    @cian: “Not quite there yet, but any day now we’ll see Gold Star Family attacking Gold Star Family.”

    I believe the word you are looking for is ‘Kelly’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  32. Tony W says:

    @wr:

    she

    That pronoun seems presumptuous

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. gVOR08 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    This whole thing started because Trump was asked an innocuous question about whether he’d called the families

    Not even that. He was asked why he hadn’t said anything about Niger, not about the families.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0