President Donald Trump was “very surprised” that his phone call with the widow of a US serviceman could have been taken badly, according to an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, criticized the President this week over his handling of his call with the wife of Sgt. La David Johnson – one of four soldiers killed in action in Niger earlier this month. Wilson, who heard the call, told CNN’s New Day earlier this week that Trump did not know Johnson’s name when he made the condolence call.
But in his interview with Bartiromo, the text of which was released by Fox Business, Trump seemingly contested the congresswoman’s claim.
“And by the way, I spoke of the name of the young man and I – it was a really – it’s a very tough call,” Trump told Bartiromo. “Those are the toughest calls.”
Wilson said she overheard the President tell the grieving widow that “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”
But Trump said he was surprised that the phone call would have been seen by any in the family as offensive.
“Look, I’ve called many people. And I would think that every one of them appreciated it,” Trump said. “I was very surprised to see this, to be honest with you.”
Trump also applauded his chief of staff, describing former Gen. John Kelly as “very elegant” and “tough.” Kelly addressed the White House press corps on Thursday and defended the President’s handling of the situation. Trump added that Kelly “couldn’t believe it” when he heard Wilson’s retelling of the call, which she heard on speakerphone.
“He – he was so offended, because he was in the room when I made the call and so were other people,” Trump said of Kelly’s reaction. “And the call was a very nice call. He was so offended that a woman would be – that somebody would be listening to that call.”
When asked by Bartiromo about the suggestion that Kelly only defended Trump to keep his job, Trump denied the claim.
“He doesn’t need this job,” Trump said. “In fact, he didn’t really want this job. He was so happy, you know, he’s a military guy.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Bartiromo also asked Trump about his public feuding with various politicians, including Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee.
Trump suggested that the back-and-forths do not get in the way of his agenda.
“Sometimes it gets people to do what they’re supposed to be doing,” Trump said. “And you know, that’s the way it is. I just want what’s right. And I think, for the most part, they want what’s right too.”