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story.lead_photo.caption In this Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, frame from video, Myeshia Johnson cries over the casket of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger, upon his body's arrival in Miami.

WASHINGTON — The mother of an Army sergeant killed in Niger said Wednesday that President Donald Trump, in a call offering condolences, showed "disrespect" to the soldier's loved ones as they drove to the airport to meet his body. Trump strongly disputed that account.

Sgt. La David Johnson was one of four American military personnel killed nearly two weeks ago whose families had not heard from Trump until Tuesday. Rep. Frederica Wilson said that Trump told the widow that Johnson "knew what he signed up for."

The Florida Democrat said she was in the car with the widow, Myeshia Johnson, on the way to Miami International Airport to meet the body when Trump called. La David Johnson's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the congresswoman's account was correct.

"Yes the statement is true," Jones-Johnson said. "I was in the car, and I heard the full conversation."

That's simply not so, Trump said Wednesday. He declared on Twitter: "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!"

And in a White House meeting on tax overhaul, Trump said that he "didn't say what that congresswoman said, didn't say it at all. She knows it."

Wilson did not back down from her account, suggesting that Trump "never wants to take ownership" of a mistake.

"If you are the leader of the free world, if you are president of the United States and you want to convey sympathy to a grieving family, a grieving widow, you choose your words carefully," Wilson told the AP on Wednesday. "And everyone knows that Donald Trump does not choose his words carefully."

"She was crying for the whole time," Wilson said of the new widow. "And the worst part of it: when he hung up you know what she turned to me and said? She said he didn't even remember his name."

Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen but not all. What's different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who's done better to honor the war dead and their families.

He placed himself at the top of the list, saying Tuesday, "I think I've called every family of someone who's died" while past presidents didn't place such calls.

But the AP found relatives of four soldiers who died overseas during Trump's presidency who said they never received calls from him. Relatives of two also confirmed they did not get letters. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump — took painstaking steps to write, call or meet bereaved military families.

After her Army son died in an armored vehicle rollover in Syria in May, Sheila Murphy says, she got no call or letter from Trump, even as she waited months for his condolences and wrote him that "some days I don't want to live."

In contrast, Trump called to comfort Eddie and Aldene Lee about 10 days after their Army son was killed in an explosion while on patrol in Iraq in April. "Lovely young man," Trump said, according to Aldene. She thought that was a beautiful word to hear about her boy, "lovely."

Trump's delay in publicly discussing the men lost at Niger did not appear to be extraordinary, judging from past examples, but his politicization of the matter is. He went so far Tuesday as to cite the death of chief of staff John Kelly's son in Afghanistan to question whether Obama had properly honored the war dead.

Kelly was a Marine general under Obama when his Marine son Robert died in 2010. "You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?" Trump said on Fox News radio.

A White House official said later that Obama did not call Kelly but did not respond to questions whether some other sort of outreach was made. Kelly, who was absent from a pair of public White House events on Tuesday, was sitting near the president in his tax meeting Wednesday but did not address reporters.

Democrats and some former government officials were livid, accusing Trump of "inane cruelty" and a "sick game."

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was attacked, said: "I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he's trying to play here."

For their part, Gold Star families, which have lost members in wartime, told the AP of acts of intimate kindness from Obama and Bush when those commanders in chief consoled them.

Trump initially claimed that only he among presidents made sure to call families. Obama may have done so on occasion, he said, but "other presidents did not call."

He equivocated Tuesday as the record made plain that his characterization was false. "I don't know," he said of past calls. But he said his own practice was to call all families of the war dead.

But that hasn't happened.

No White House protocol demands that presidents speak or meet with the families of Americans killed in action — an impossible task in a war's bloodiest stages. But they often do.

Altogether some 6,900 Americans have been killed in overseas wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the overwhelming majority under Bush and Obama.

Despite the much heavier toll on his watch — more than 800 dead each year from 2004 through 2007 — Bush wrote to all bereaved military families and met or spoke with hundreds if not thousands, said his spokesman, Freddy Ford.

Veterans groups said they had no quarrel with how presidents have recognized the fallen or their families.

"I don't think there is any president I know of who hasn't called families," said Rick Weidman, co-founder and executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America. "President Obama called often and President Bush called often. They also made regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Center, going in the evenings and on Saturdays."

Trump feuded with one Gold Star family during last year's campaign, assailing the parents of slain Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004, after they criticized him from the stage at the Democratic National Convention.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • TimberTopper
    October 18, 2017 at 1:44 p.m.

    If I ask the question, will Trump lie? The answer is, most of the time. So until he plays tapes of talking with this family, I'll have to take the family's word on this.

  • 3WorldState1
    October 18, 2017 at 2:36 p.m.

    Doesn't matter. He may have not meant it to sound the way he said it. But that's who he is. I can totally her him saying that. In that elitist douche baggery way that he says everything. Like when telling the Puerto Ricans they were lucky it wasn't as bad as Katrina. Simply an idiot.
    And we already know he doesn't give two rips about war heroes and Gold Star families - by his own words. But you better not kneel during the anthem. That's where he and his followers draw the line.

  • LRDawg
    October 18, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

    Of course this is true....he degrades gold-star families in public. No reason not to believe he wouldn't in private

  • Slak
    October 18, 2017 at 4:02 p.m.

    You talking about that foreign-born hater waving the constitution and chastising natural-born Americans while his wife took her cultural place silently behind him in the Islamic-submissive pose? Certainly in their case, the son wasted his sacrifice on the alter of proglib politics. Sad.
    Now we see a cowboy-hatted hater doing much the same thing. Trying to score political points on the death of a patriot. Disgusting proglib politics. Sickening.

  • JakeTidmore
    October 18, 2017 at 4:50 p.m.

    You are really confusing slak. Belittling Trump in one breath and spouting off about proglibs in the next. Better see your local exorcist for a tuneup.

  • JakeTidmore
    October 18, 2017 at 4:52 p.m.

    Am re-posting this because it's becoming more and more relevant and needed in handling the multitude of lies Trump is now entangling himself and this country in:
    It's time for everyone to have a tape recorder handy when dealing with Trump, no matter the time or place. Let his plethora of lies become public record. Make sure he knows we ALL are going to tape record his sorry ass whenever he opens his mouth to speak.

  • Slak
    October 18, 2017 at 5:03 p.m.

    Jake, mrcharles appears to be dead. I know of no other to be as worthy of approach for counsel.
    Maybe it's just a stylistic thing.

  • 3WorldState1
    October 18, 2017 at 5:19 p.m.

    Didn't understand one thing Slak said. Guess I'm not a proglib?

    October 18, 2017 at 6:14 p.m.

    Po'slak just can't acknowledge that his man Drumpf is exactly who and what we "proglibs" (Seriously...what a soporific term. YAAAWWWN!) said he was years ago.

    Sad, but not surprising.

    October 18, 2017 at 6:32 p.m.

    And of COURSE Cheetolini showed disrespect. He's an a$shole. That's what a$sholes do.