White House does not dispute details of Trump's call with Army widow

Key Points
  • The White House on Wednesday did not dispute reports that President Donald Trump told the widow of a slain U.S. soldier that her late husband "knew what he was signing up for" when he joined the military.
  • Trump on Wednesday claimed he had "proof" that a lawmaker had "totally fabricated" her account of the call.
  • Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said that there were no tapes of the call. She also declined to back up the president's denials, emphasizing that Trump had done "the best job he could under those circumstances."
Trump denies telling slain soldier's widow he knew what he was signing up for

Under pressure over President Donald Trump's reported handling of a call with the widow of an Army sergeant killed in action, the White House on Wednesday did not dispute details that have emerged about Trump saying the soldier "knew what he was signing up for" when he joined the military.

Trump reportedly said this to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, in a phone call on Tuesday. Sgt. Johnson was one of four U.S. Special Operations soldiers killed in Niger on Oct. 4.

Details of the call were first revealed by Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who was sitting with Johnson's widow while she spoke to Trump on Tuesday afternoon. The details were later confirmed by Johnson's mother.

Trump on Wednesday repeatedly denied that he told Johnson that her husband "knew what he was signing up for." He also claimed to have "proof" that Wilson's account was "totally fabricated."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, said that the "proof" Trump referred to was merely that there were other administration officials present for the call.

Sanders also declined to back up the president's denials when she was asked about them at the daily White House briefing. Instead, Sanders emphasized that Trump had done "the best job he could under those circumstances."

Speaking to numerous media outlets, Wilson said Wednesday that Trump's condolence call had left Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson's widow, in tears.

The comment about what Johnson signed up for "was the wrong thing to say, but that's not the worst part of the call," Wilson told ABC News. The worst part, she said, was that Trump "did not even know La David Johnson's name. He kept referring to him as 'your guy.' He never called him by his name. So that was even more painful."

Sanders defended the president. "Just because the president said 'your guy,' I don't think that means that he doesn't know his name. As the president stated, the hardest job he has is making calls like that."

Still, by not disputing any of the details that Wilson provided in her account of the president's phone call, Sanders seemed to suggest that Johnson's widow had misinterpreted the president, or taken his words the wrong way.

"The sentiment of the president was very clear," Sanders said. "He took the time to make a call to express his condolences and to thank the family for this individual's service."

But Cowanda Jones-Johnson, the fallen sergeant's mother, said she felt the president had failed to console her grieving family.

"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Jones-Johnson told numerous media outlets.

The press conference took place two days after Trump first suggested that he had done more to honor the families of slain U.S. service members than had his predecessor, President Barack Obama.