Trump: Ask Gen. Kelly if Obama called when his son died


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his false claim that his predecessor didn't call the families of soldiers killed in action by alluding to former Gen. John Kelly's son, a Marine who died in Afghanistan.

"You could ask General Kelly, Did he get a call from Obama?" Trump said in a radio interview with Fox News' Brian Kilmeade.

Kelly, who came on as Trump's chief of staff in July, does not often speak about the son he lost in 2010. 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, 29, was killed in combat in Afghanistan after stepping on a landmine.

"I don't know what Obama's policy was. I write letters and I also call," Trump said, adding he has called "virtually everybody" during his past nine months as commander in chief. 

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President Trump hosts news conference in Rose Garden
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talk to reporters in the Rose Garden following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and McConnell tried to erase reporting that they were not on the same page with the GOP legislative agenda and priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talk to reporters in the Rose Garden following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and McConnell tried to erase reporting that they were not on the same page with the GOP legislative agenda and priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talk to reporters in the Rose Garden following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and McConnell tried to erase reporting that they were not on the same page with the GOP legislative agenda and priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talk to reporters in the Rose Garden following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and McConnell tried to erase reporting that they were not on the same page with the GOP legislative agenda and priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talk to reporters in the Rose Garden following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and McConnell tried to erase reporting that they were not on the same page with the GOP legislative agenda and priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Rose Garden during a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and McConnell tried to erase reporting that they were not on the same page with the GOP legislative agenda and priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, listens during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. Trump and McConnell appeared to give themselves some breathing room on their goal of completing a tax overhaul before year's end in remarks that emphasized the difficulty of passing major legislation. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walk into the Rose Garden to talk to reporters following a lunch meeting at the White House October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and McConnell tried to erase reporting that they were not on the same page with the GOP legislative agenda and priorities. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves after speaking to the press in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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Trump's comments Tuesday come a day after he falsely claimed that President Barack Obama did not call the families of soldiers killed in action after being asked why he had not yet addressed the deaths of American troops killed in Niger earlier this month.

When pressed by NBC News on how he could make that claim, Trump said he was told that Obama "didn't often" call families of fallen soldiers.

"President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told. All I can do — all I can do is ask my generals," he said.

According to a 2011 profile in The Boston Globe, Kelly has avoided speaking publicly about his son so as not to draw attention.

"We are not inclined to make ourselves out to be any different, just because I’m a lieutenant general in the Marines," Kelly said then. "We are just one family. It's not worse for us; it's not easier for us."

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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with John Kelly after he was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after John Kelly was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after John Kelly was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
John Kelly sits after he was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump sits after John Kelly was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly sits during his first meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump's cabinet at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
John Kelly sits after he was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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A White House official told NBC News on Tuesday that Obama did not call Kelly after the death of his son.

A former senior Obama administration official disputed Trump's initial claim on Monday that Obama didn't call Gold Star families, calling it "wrong."

"President Obama engaged families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through calls, letters, visits to Section 60 at Arlington, visits to Walter Reed, visits to Dover, and regular meetings with Gold Star Families at the White House and across the country," the ex-official told NBC.

Trump said Tuesday that he had to allow a little time to pass but he "will be calling, have called, and will be calling the parents and loved ones, wives of the soldiers that recently were killed."

The White House said later that the president was scheduled to call the families of the four soldiers killed in Niger on Tuesday.

 

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