The widow of a US soldier killed in Niger has criticized Donald Trump over last week's condolence call, prompting a fresh rebuttal from the president. The Pentagon has said it would seek to provide answers in the death.
Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, confirmed a congresswoman's earlier comments that President Trump had said her husband "knew what he signed up for" and failed to recall her husband's name.
"I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband's name, and that's what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country why can't you remember his name. And that's what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier," she said, speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday.
"Yes, the president said that 'he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.' And it made me cry 'cause I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said he couldn't remember my husband's name," she added.
Johnson also said she has received little information about her husband's death and has not been able to see his body. "I need to see him so I will know that that is my husband. I don't know nothing, they won't show me a finger, a hand."
Trump re-enters the fray
Soon after the interview, Trump responded on Twitter, saying he had a "very respectful conversation" with Johnson.
Trump's response to the deaths of four service members on October 4 in the African nation of Niger has ignited fierce debate. The four US soldiers were killed in a firefight when they were attacked by militants tied to the "Islamic State."
Last week, after Democrat lawmaker Frederica Wilson accused Trump of being "callous" in his response to the soldier's death, Trump insisted that Wilson's account had been fabricated.
In subsequent tweets, he called Wilson "wacky" and accused her of secretly listening to the phone call, a claim denied by Johnson in Monday's interview.
Shortly after the initial phone call, Trump claimed some of his predecessors "didn't do anything" to console the relatives of fallen soldiers. He did not back up the claim and it was later shown to be false.
Looking for answers
An investigation is under way into the deaths of the four soldiers, with Johnson's family, along with members of Congress, demanding to know whether the US had adequate intelligence and equipment for its operation, whether there was a planning failure and why it took two days to recover Johnson's body.
Republican Senator John McCain, a veteran who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday that lawmakers want answers.
"We should not be fighting about a brave American who lost his life serving his country. That should not be a topic in America today," he told ABC's "The View" program, adding that his committee needed more information about the incident. "Unless you learn the lessons, then you're going to repeat them."
Responding to the criticism on Monday, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the soldiers killed had been part of an 800-strong force in Niger involved in training local forces to address terrorist threats.
US forces do not have a direct combat role in Niger, but they help its army with intelligence and reconnaissance in the government's efforts to target violent extremist groups. The troops comprise the largest number of US troops in Africa, where 6,000 troops are operating in 53 countries.
Dunford said the 12 members of the special operations task force were accompanying local forces to a village north of the capital when they came under attack from the IS-affiliated group. Dunford said the investigation would seek to provide answers, adding that the death of four US service members was "a big deal to me."
jbh/cmk (AP, Reuters, dpa)