President Trump continues to defend his claim that President Barack Obama and other past presidents didn't always call the families of slain service members, this time bringing up his the fallen son of his chief of staff, John Kelly, a former Marine general.
Trump said during a Tuesday interview on a Fox News radio show that people should ask Kelly if Obama called him when his son, 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, died when he stepped on a land mine in November 2010.
Later Tuesday, a White House aide, who declined to be identified told The Hill that Obama did not call Kelly.
However, Kelly and his wife attended a May 2011 breakfast for Gold Star families with Obama, and the Kellys sat with then-first lady Michelle Obama. Gold Star families are those who have had immediate family members killed in combat or in support certain military activities.
Trump was roundly criticized after he claimed that Obama didn't call fallen soldiers' during a Monday news conference. Trump was asked why he had not written or called the families of four Special Operations soldiers killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in the west African nation of Niger.
Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama's former deputy chief of staff of operations, called Trump a liar on Twitter, “that's a f------ lie. to say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA - he's a deranged animal.”
“President Obama engaged families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through calls, letters, visits to [Arlington Cemetery], visits to Walter Reed, visits to Dover, and regular meetings with Gold Star families at the White House and across the country,” a former White House official who was not named said in the Politico report.
Trump, who said Monday that he had not yet sent letters to the soldiers' families, added that a lot of former presidents didn't make calls. He likes to call, Trump said, when it's appropriate and when he thinks he's able to.
On Tuesday, Trump said he doesn't feel a need to clarify his remarks.
“There’s nothing to clarify,” he said. “This was, again, fake news CNN. I mean, they’re just a bunch of fakers.”
CNN, the 24-hour cable news network, had nothing to do with Trump's comments Monday, which were made in the Rose Garden before multiple news organizations.
He did, urge, however, that he’s prioritized calling the family of every fallen service member.
“It’s very difficult to be able to do that, but I have called, I believe, everybody. But certainly I’ll use the word ‘virtually’ everybody, where during the last nine months something’s happened to a soldier I’ve called virtually everybody,” he said.
Trump then said he didn't know what President George W. Bush did. "I don't know what Obama did. You could find out easily what President Obama did," he said. "All you have to do is ask the military people. But I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy."