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Trump brings his chief of staff, whose son died in combat, into controversy over condolence calls

By Noah Bierman • Oct 17, 2017 at 3:56 PM

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, facing blowback for his failure to call the families of four soldiers who died in combat, on Tuesday invoked the fallen son of his chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly.

“As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News Radio on Tuesday.

Kelly seldom talks about his son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, 29, who died from a Taliban land mine in Afghanistan in 2010.

A White House official who demanded anonymity said that former President Barack Obama did not call the elder Kelly after the death. The official did not immediately say whether Kelly received a letter. Obama’s office did not immediately respond to an email. Kelly, who was a general when his son died, has not spoken about his interaction with Obama on the subject.

Trump has faced criticism for failing to call the families of four soldiers killed in Niger on Oct. 6. It intensified Monday after Trump falsely claimed that Obama and other predecessors failed to call families of service members killed in the line of duty.

Obama officials angrily denied the assertion. Alyssa Mastromonaco, a deputy chief of staff for Obama, used profanity in an angry tweet, calling the claim a lie. “He’s a deranged animal,” she said of Trump.

“I really speak for myself. I am not speaking for other people. I don’t know what (George W.) Bush did. I don’t know what Obama did,” Trump said in the Fox radio interview. “I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy. I can tell you, my policy is I have called every one of them.”


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