"A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down", Kelly said Thursday.
"There's no ideal way to make that phone call", he said in his first public comments on the controversy over the call, which Johnson's mother and a Florida lawmaker who knew him said was disrespectful.
"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 said.
"That's what the president tried to say to the four families the other day", Kelly said, adding there is "no flawless way to make that phone call".
Kelly issued the harsh rebuke against Wilson after describing how he was "stunned" and "heartbroken" that she had listened in on a call between Trump and the widow of a slain serviceman and then publicized its contents.More news: Tillerson visit will advance ambitious agenda with India
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Johnson and three other USA special forces were killed by Islamic State-linked militants earlier this month in an incident near the Niger-Mali border that has raised questions about the quality of US intelligence.
"There was a lot of grandstanding and he was stunned that she'd taken the opportunity to make it about herself", Sanders said Friday, doubling down on the claim.
Also listening to the conversation was a Democratic congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, who happens to be a close friend of the Johnson family.
"I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing", Kelly said.
Trump denied having made the comment in a tweet and a Wednesday statement at the White House. "He knew what the possibilities were". In response, Kelly told him what General Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him when Robert Kelly was killed. The family of Army Sergeant Jonathon Hunter, who was killed in an August suicide bombing in Afghanistan, was told to expect a call from Trump.
What Trump meant to say and what he actually said are two different things. Grogan nearly retired, 53 years old; Duke, I think less than a year on the job. Kelly asked reporters, lamenting that the death of a US soldier is no longer "sacred". So did other people in the White House.