trump Myeshia Johnson call no recording SHS WHPB sot_00000000.jpg
trump Myeshia Johnson call no recording SHS WHPB sot_00000000.jpg
Now playing
00:49
WH: No recording of call to soldier's widow
Niger map
Niger map
Now playing
00:58
US military reveals new firefight in Niger
A private funeral was held for Sgt. La David T. Johnson in Cooper City, Florida.  Sgt. Johnson, 25, was part of a joint U.S. and Nigerian train, advise and assist mission and died October 4, 2017 in southwest Niger as a result of enemy fire.
US Defense Department/US Defense Department/US Defense Department
A private funeral was held for Sgt. La David T. Johnson in Cooper City, Florida. Sgt. Johnson, 25, was part of a joint U.S. and Nigerian train, advise and assist mission and died October 4, 2017 in southwest Niger as a result of enemy fire.
Now playing
01:59
Additional remains of fallen soldier found
sgt. johnson national geographic
National Geographic Channel
sgt. johnson national geographic
Now playing
00:58
Video shows US soldier before attack in Niger
exclusive inside the ambush zone in niger arwa damon_00001414.jpg
exclusive inside the ambush zone in niger arwa damon_00001414.jpg
Now playing
01:53
Exclusive look inside the Niger ambush zone
Now playing
01:17
Senators claim not to know of troops in Niger
WSVN
Now playing
01:28
Lawmaker infuriated over Trump's call to widow
Trump on Wilson
CNN
Trump on Wilson
Now playing
00:37
Trump denies Wilson's claim on call to widow
Now playing
01:03
Lt. general: Trump's Obama comment 'shameful'
CNN
Now playing
02:06
Wilson: Trump didn't know slain soldier's name
SCALZO/Wilson/Getty Images
Now playing
01:41
Trump: Ask Kelly if Obama called about son
Green Beret Wright
CNN
Green Beret Wright
Now playing
00:58
Green Beret's brother: Trump's call 'an honor'
trump calling families of niger kia troops sot_00005808.jpg
trump calling families of niger kia troops sot_00005808.jpg
Now playing
02:04
Trump: Obama didn't call slain troops' families
fallen green beret hartung pkg_00022729.jpg
fallen green beret hartung pkg_00022729.jpg
Now playing
02:48
Fallen Green Beret laid to rest
The Department of Defense announced today the death of Sgt. La David T. Johnson who was part of a joint U.S.  and Nigerian train, advise and assist mission.Sgt. Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, died October 4, 2017 in southwest Niger as a result of enemy fire.
US Defense Department
The Department of Defense announced today the death of Sgt. La David T. Johnson who was part of a joint U.S. and Nigerian train, advise and assist mission.Sgt. Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, died October 4, 2017 in southwest Niger as a result of enemy fire.
Now playing
05:22
Congresswoman describes Trump's call to widow

Story highlights

Trump's first remarks didn't come until nearly two weeks later

He was asked about them during an impromptu news conference on Monday

(CNN) —  

It’s not clear why it took President Donald Trump 12 days to publicly comment on the deaths of US troops killed in an ambush in Niger, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from some White House officials.

White House officials prepared and circulated internally a statement to be issued on the President’s behalf the day after the attack. But the statement, obtained Wednesday by Politico and confirmed by CNN, was never officially released.

Instead, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders took to the briefing room that same day and said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the fallen service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the freedoms we hold so dear.”

It wasn’t until nearly two weeks later that the President, an avid Twitter user, mentioned the deaths when he asked about them during an impromptu news conference Monday in the White House Rose Garden.

Pressed Wednesday on why it took Trump so long to offer a public statement on the soldiers’ deaths, Sanders pointed reporters to her remarks October 5, saying she made those remarks “at the direction of the President.”

“I speak on his behalf and I did that on behalf of the President and the administration,” Sanders said, though her initial statement made no specific mention of the President.

A White House official said Wednesday the White House opted not to issue the written statement from the President, deciding instead it would be more powerful for Sanders to deliver remarks from the White House podium on the matter. The official said it was more important to elevate the message by issuing it from the White House podium.

The draft statement, which notes that “Melania and I are heartbroken at the news that three US service members were killed,” was prepared before the military recovered Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s body nearly 48 hours after the ambush.

Those chaotic hours, when US officials were uncertain whether Johnson had survived the ambush, could have also contributed to the decision not to release a presidential statement. What isn’t clear is why Trump didn’t issue a tweet, word or written statement about the death of four US service members until nearly two weeks later.

Trump’s 12-day public silence on the matter also coincided with his lack of communication with the service members’ families. Commenting for the first time Monday on the attack, Trump said he had written letters to those families over the weekend and they were being sent out that night.

Trump’s relative quiet on the matter comes as questions about the ambush have gained steam, with the Defense Department this week launching an internal investigation into how the 12-man team led by Green Berets were ambushed and how Johnson’s body was left behind in the initial rescue and recovery.

CNN’s Sara Murray contributed to this report.