Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump denied Wednesday the account of a Democratic congresswoman that he told the widow of a US serviceman killed in an ambush in Niger that “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”
“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” he tweeted. He did not immediately provide proof to back the claim. CNN has reached out to the White House.
“I have proof, too: this man is a sick man,” Wilson said Wednesday morning on CNN’s “New Day,” responding to Trump’s tweet. She added that Johnson’s widow “broke down” after her call with Trump, saying the President “didn’t even know his name.”
“I have no reason to lie (to) the President of the United States with a dead soldier in my community. I have no time, I have no motive,” she told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day,” noting that she was the elementary school principal of Johnson’s father and mentored the sergeant.
Cowanda Jones-Johnson, a family member who raised Johnson, told CNN Wednesday that Wilson’s account of the call between Trump and Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, was “very accurate.” She said she was in the car when the call happened.
Wilson described herself as “livid” when she heard the call on speakerphone, but when she tried to get the phone to talk to Trump herself, a master sergeant who was present prevented her from doing so. Per military protocol, the calls from the commander in chief are solely presidential condolence conversations.
Wilson said she was ready to “curse him out” had she had the chance to get on the line. However, Wilson said she wouldn’t get into the specifics of what she would have said, adding that she didn’t want to “politicize” it.
‘I guess it still hurt’
Johnson’s body was returned home to the Miami area late Tuesday afternoon, with the plane receiving a water cannon salute as it arrived near the gate.
The call from the President to Johnson’s widow came shortly before Johnson’s casket arrival, Wilson said on “CNN Tonight” Tuesday night.
“Basically, he said, ‘Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt,’ ” Wilson said to CNN’s Don Lemon.
“That’s what he said,” she added.
A White House official said Tuesday: “The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.”
CNN was unable to reach the family for comment.
Wilson told WPLG that she hoped the President didn’t make similar comments to the ones she heard to the other families of the soldiers killed.
“That is what stood out in everyone’s heart,” she said. “You don’t say that. He is the President of the United States. This is a soldier who gave his life for his country. He is a hero in our minds, in our community’s minds. That is an insult to the entire Miami Gardens community, to the entire District 24, to Miami-Dade County and to this nation. And I hope he didn’t say that to the other three families.”
Evokes Khan family feud
“I felt very, very badly about that,” Trump said Monday. “I always feel badly. It is the toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers are killed.”
“I really speak for myself. I am not speaking for other people. I don’t know what (George W.) Bush did. I don’t know what Obama did,” Trump said. “I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy. I can tell you, my policy is I have called every one of them.”
Trump told reporters to ask Kelly if he received a call from Obama when his son was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
Outrage over Trump’s alleged comments to Johnson’s widow evoke a similar controversy to his public feud with the family of another fallen American soldier.
Before Trump’s alleged comments on Johnson surfaced, the Khans issued a statement Tuesday accusing Trump of a “lack of empathy” and of “selfish and divisive” conduct that undermined the dignity of the presidency.
“One more time, he has shown us that he is undeserving of the leadership of our great nation,” the family’s statement said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Wilson was the principal of Johnson’s father.