U.S. Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, was one of the four American soldiers killed on Oct. 4 in an ambush in Niger. Johnson, a native of Miami Gardens, Fla., died while providing training and security assistance to the Niger Armed Forces.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) was with the fallen soldier's wife, Myeshia Johnson, on Tuesday in a limo headed to Miami International Airport to meet her husband's remains. Johnson received a phone call at 4:45 p.m. from President Donald Trump while still in the car, ABC 10 reports. According to Wilson, who said she heard the conversation on speakerphone, Trump said of Johnson's death, "He knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens, it hurts anyway."
That would be an unpatriotic and unpresidential comment from Trump, who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, and would be hypocritical as he wants NFL players fired for kneeling during the national anthem. It would be despicable if Johnson, who is pregnant and now a single mother of a 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, was told that her husband should have anticipated death.
But the death of Johnson and the three other soldiers who perished in Niger is now under investigation by the Department of Defense to examine the military's preparation for the operation, including why the ambush by 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters wasn't anticipated.
Cowanda Jones-Johnson, La David Johnson's mother, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Wilson's account was correct.
"Yes the statement is true," Jones-Johnson said. "I was in the car and I heard the full conversation. Not only did [Trump] disrespect my son," but he disrespected his wife and me and my husband.
In response to Wilson's statements, Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning:
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
But Trump himself spreads fabricated information. For example, on Monday, when asked by the press why he had not acknowledged the four soldiers' deaths, Trump falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama did not call the families of fallen service members. He offered no evidence to back up his claim.
"The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls," Trump said.
When pressed on his claim, particularly about Obama, Trump retreated.
"I don't know if he did. No," Trump said. "I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't. They write letters ... I do a combination of both."
Eric Holder, Obama's former attorney general, said in a post on Twitter, "Stop the damn lying — you're the president."
Stop the damn lying - you're the President. I went to Dover AFB with 44 and saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military & DEA. pic.twitter.com/HhE4KbTBkJ
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 17, 2017
Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama's former deputy chief of staff, also called it a lie.
Responding to Trump's tweet, Wilson said Wednesday morning on CNN's "New Day," "I have proof, too: this man is a sick man."
She said that Johnson's widow "broke down" after her call with Trump, saying the president "didn't even know his name."
"This is a young, young woman who has two children," Wilson told CNN's Don Lemon on Tuesday night, "who is six months pregnant with her third child.
"She has just lost her husband. She was just told that he cannot have an open casket funeral, which gives her all kinds of nightmares of how his body must look. [How] his face must look. And this is what the President of the United States says to her.
"There's no reason for the president to be so insensitive … his rhetoric is disrespectful to the family of every soldier that has paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and our community is livid because this was our hero. We don't have many heroes in our young men in Miami-Dade County, but he was a hero for us."
Lemon asked Wilson her reaction when she heard Trump's comment.
"I asked them to give me phone because I wanted to speak with him," she said. "And I was gonna curse him out … I was livid. But they would not give me the phone."
Lemon asked, "What did she say?"
Wilson said Johnson's widow was crying and "couldn't say anything."
She also said other family members were in the car and are still upset "because they don't know why [Johnson] was separated from the rest of the soldiers."
A White House official said Tuesday, "The president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private."
The hashtag #SgtLaDavidJohnson is currently trending on Twitter. Johnson's wife, who is in bereavement, has not yet made a public comment about Trump's phone call.
A public viewing will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and a funeral service from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, at the Christ The Rock Church at 11000 Stirling Road in Cooper City, according to ABC 10. The internment will be at the Hollywood Memorial Gardens, at 3001 N. 72 St.
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project has set up a scholarship to benefit Johnson's children. Click here for more information