Former CIA director: Trump 'inconsistent' with Bush, Clinton, Obama handling of military deaths

Brennan slams Trump's handling of Niger
Brennan slams Trump's handling of Niger

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Brennan slams Trump's handling of Niger 02:20

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump's level of presidential concern for military families mourning loved ones has proven "inconsistent" with previous presidents in the same position, former CIA Director John Brennan said Wednesday.

Brennan reflected during a question-and-answer session at Fordham University law school on his experiences observing Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama "at times of great pain and anguish" after US citizens' lives had been lost.
"The solemnity with which they treated those situations and interacted with families and loved ones and just how important that responsibility was ... I was very impressed that all of them acted so presidential in those cases," Brennan said.
Trump has been flooded with criticism after it took the White House nearly two weeks to openly comment on the deaths four US service members killed in Niger during an ambush. Some of Trump's actions -- suggesting falsely that Obama had not contacted Gold Star families and, according to Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, telling a grieving widow that her husband "knew what he signed up for" -- did not show that "type of respect" to military families, Brennan suggested.
    "Mr. Trump has his own ways of dealing with things that I see as inconsistent with what some of his predecessors have done and how they've treated it," Brennan said. "I'm not going to dignify in any way some of the comments that have been made, which I think does not underscore the importance, the significance the sacrifice of these individuals."
    Trump called Wilson's retelling of that call, which she says she heard on a speaker phone, "totally fabricated."
    While speaking at a news conference Monday, Trump noted that he had written letters to the families of the US troops slain in Niger and added he had plans to call them this week, but the controversy boiled over when he then also claimed previous presidents hadn't written or called families of service members killed in action.
    Brennan called Trump's frequent desire to show himself favorably compared to his predecessors "unfortunate."
    "I think that one can highlight what they're doing and the importance of what they're doing without dragging down either predecessors or previous things," Brennan said. "To me that's much more presidential, as well as constructive."
    Brennan compared Trump's handling of the Niger attack to when the President spoke in front of the CIA's memorial wall honoring agency employees killed in service of the US just days after he had been sworn into office and touted the crowd size at his inauguration, which Brennan also took issue with.
    "When Mr. Trump was at CIA's headquarters lobby, two days after inauguration in front of the memorial wall where the 117 stars, many of those stars represent individuals I knew personally and well," Brennan said, "we treat it -- always treated that wall with great respect and to honor their legacy -- and when there were comments made of a political nature that I thought just were just disrespectful, I spoke out."