White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly gave a rare and emotionally charged White House Press Briefing yesterday, where he explained in detail the context surrounding President Trump’s phone call with the family of recently KIA Sergeant La David Johnson.
In explicit detail, General Kelly laid out the process for notifying the next of kin and loved ones of a service member who is killed in combat; the tenor of his speech suggesting that Kelly believed the facts and details surrounding the incident were being misrepresented.
The soundbites so far reported on General Kelly’s briefing have been crafted or tagged with “Kelly defends Trump”, or something similar. But listening to the anguish in General Kelly’s voice as he describes what it’s like for a Gold Star family to receive word that their world is forever changed illustrates the issue is more than simply “defending Trump.”
Kelly, whose own son 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in combat, is perhaps better suited than any other person in this country to offer his perspective on the issue. Being on both the receiving end as a parent, and on the notifying end as a commander, Kelly says he initially told President Trump to not make the call at all. Citing that there was no precedent or expectation for the Commander-in-Chief to place such a call, Kelly said there was “nothing you could do to lighten the burden on these families.” And that President Obama did not personally call him when his son was killed.