White House Chief of Staff John Kelly did not receive a phone call from former President Obama when his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, according to a White House official.
“Gen. Kelly did not receive a call from President Obama,” the White House official confirmed to Breitbart News on Tuesday.
President Trump had raised the question earlier in the day during a radio interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, saying, “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?”
The question of whether previous presidents have called family members of the fallen arose after a reporter asked Trump on Monday why he had not yet said anything about four soldiers who were killed on an advising mission in Niger on October 4.
Trump said he had written the families personal letters over the weekend and that he was also planning to call their parents and families because he has done that “traditionally.”
“It’s the toughest — the toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens. Soldiers are killed. It’s a very difficult thing. Now, it gets to a point where, you know, you make four or five of them in one day — it’s a very, very tough day. For me, that’s by far the toughest,” he said.
He noted that “most” other presidents didn’t make calls, naming Obama: “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I am able to do it.”
“They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call,” he continued. “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I’m going to be calling them. I have — as you know, since I’ve been president, I have.”
Former Obama officials fired back, arguing that Obama had visited wounded warriors in hospitals and visited Dover Air Force Base as fallen troops were flown home.
The Washington Post wrote a “Fact checker” analysis on whether Obama made actual calls. The piece said it could not find any “contemporaneous evidence” that Obama had called any families.
However, the Post said, “there is plenty of evidence that Obama met with families of fallen service members,” and that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the Post that Obama “made some calls” to family members of 30 troops who died when their helicopter was hit by a rocket in Afghanistan in 2011.
Trump clarified to Fox News that he didn’t know what Obama’s actual policy was but noted that he writes letters and also makes calls.
“I don’t know what Obama’s policy was. I write letters and I also call,” he said, adding that he has called “virtually everybody” during his presidency.
Kelly’s son, Robert, was killed by a roadside bomb while on a foot patrol in Afghanistan. He was 29. Kelly was a three-star general at the time.