President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, John Kelly, has criticized a Democratic congresswoman for publicly speaking about a call Trump made to the family of a U.S. soldier killed in action.
Trump called the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four soldiers who died in an ambush in the African country of Niger, CNN reported. Rep. Frederica Wilson listened in on the call, as she was close to the family before David's death.
According to Wilson, Trump told David's widow Myeshia that her deceased husband "knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt."
Wilson also alleged that Trump appeared not to know the name of the soldier, referring to him as "your guy," according to The New York Times.
Cowanda Jones Johnson, David's mother, described Wilson's account as "very accurate," CNN reported.
But Trump challenged this characterization of the conversation, saying he "had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman," the Times reported.
"Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof)," Trump wrote on Twitter.
Kelly said he gave advice to Trump prior to the call and explained to the media what he had told Trump to say.
"He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed," said Kelly, according to CNN. "He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we were at war. And when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That's what the president tried to say to the four families the other day."
The former general also revealed he had urged Trump not to make the call: "He said to me: 'What do I say?' I said to him: 'Sir, there is nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.'"
Kelly has personal experience with losing a relative in battle. In 2010, his son, Robert Kelly, died in Afghanistan.
Kelly stated that the call should have been kept private.
"Let's not let this maybe last thing that is held sacred in our society, a young man, a young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country, let's try to somehow keep that sacred," he added.
He noted that when he heard about Wilson's comments, he felt compelled to leave the White House and visit Arlington National Cemetery to "go walk among the finest men and women on this earth."
Sources: CNN via KTVX, The New York Times / Featured Image: U.S. Army/Rachel Larue/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons, Kalie Jones/Dvidshub via Wikimedia Commons