Donald Trump: John Kelly 'disgusted' military deaths politicised, fallen soldier controversy continues

Donald Trump: John Kelly 'disgusted' military deaths politicised, fallen soldier controversy continues

Donald Trump: John Kelly 'disgusted' military deaths politicised, fallen soldier controversy continues

Updated 19 October 2017, 12:10 AEDT

General John Kelly is reportedly disgusted his son's death in Afghanistan in 2010 has been dragged into a debate initiated by Donald Trump over whether former presidents called the families of slain troops.

Donald Trump's chief of staff John Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, is "disgusted" that dealing with military deaths has become "politicised", a White House spokeswoman says.

Key points:

  • Trump questioned whether Obama had called family of General Kelly when his son was killed in combat in Afghanistan
  • Some relatives of war dead say they have not received a call from Trump despite his boast
  • Mother of soldier killed in Niger says President disrespected son, after Trump denied story

Retired General Kelly is frustrated that "the focus has become on the process and not that American lives were lost", Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

The controversy began when the US President falsely claimed his predecessor, Barack Obama, did not contact the families of US troops killed in the line of duty.

The claim drew a swift response from Mr Obama's foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes, who said it was "an outrageous and disrespectful lie".

Mr Trump made the claims in response to questions about why he had not publicly spoken about the killing of the US soldiers in Niger two weeks ago.

He then backed up the comments by suggesting General Kelly's family may not have received a call from Mr Obama when his son was killed by a landmine while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.

"As far as other Presidents, I don't know, you could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don't know what Obama's policy was," Mr Trump said.

Ms Huckabee Sanders did not directly address whether General Kelly knew Mr Trump would cite the death of his son to question whether Mr Obama had properly honoured the war dead.

She said Mr Trump had spoken with General Kelly "multiple times," but added: "I'm not sure if he knew of that specific comment, but they have certainly spoken about it. And they have spoken several times."

Asked if Mr Trump politicised Kelly's son's death, Ms Huckabee Sanders said: "He was responding to a question and stating a fact."

Relatives of war dead say they have not received calls from Trump

Despite Mr Trump's boast that he calls all or nearly all military families when they lose a loved one, relatives of at least a half dozen people who died in military service since he became President have said they never got a call from him about their loss.

After Jonathon M Hunter, 23, died in a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan in August, his family was told to expect a call from Mr Trump. None came.

His father Mark said the family wanted nothing more from Mr Trump than an acknowledgment that their son had made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Relatives of two soldiers also confirmed they did not get letters.

Ms Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump had made as much contact as possible with families of slain military service members.

She said there is a protocol created by the White House Military Office for the president to contact the families.

First, the Department of Defence notifies the next of kin. Then, the Pentagon sends information to the White House, which has to then be re-confirmed. Once done, the president reaches out to the family.

Ms Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump has reached out to every family that has been authorised by the military office.

Serviceman's mother says Trump 'disrespected' son, despite President's denials

Meanwhile Mr Trump has continued to reject a Florida congresswoman's account that he told the widow of a soldier killed in the ambush in Niger that her husband "knew what he signed up for".

Representative Frederica Wilson said she was with Myeshia Johnson on Tuesday when Mr Trump called the widow. She said she overheard Mr Trump's words.

But before a meeting at the White House on Wednesday (local time), Mr Trump said he "didn't say it at all".

"I had a very nice conversation with the woman, the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said," he added.

Sergeant La David Johnson was among four servicemen killed in the African nation of Niger earlier this month.

The serviceman's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, said on Wednesday that the congresswoman's account was correct.

She said "not only did he disrespect my son," but also the family.

Mr Trump, asked by reporters about an earlier tweet saying he had "proof" of what he said, the president said: "Let her (Wilson) make her statement again and you'll find out."

The White House has condemned Ms Wilson's claims as "appalling and disgusting".