Sgt. La David T. Johnson was a special forces sergeant, highly regarded by his peers, on a mission in Niger with no backup, whose body was left behind for 48 hours after the initial rescue. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, his widow, Myeshia Johnson, said she was hurt by Trump’s apparent inability to remember her late husband’s name when he called her earlier this month.
“The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said ‘La David.’” she said. “I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name. And that’s what hurt me the most. If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?”
In response, Trump effectively accused a Gold Star widow of lying. In a tweet this morning, Trump said that he “spoke [La David’s] name from beginning, without hesitation!” Earlier this week, Trump said it was “totally fabricated” that he’d told Ms. Johnson that her husband “knew what he signed up for,” a statement that was confirmed by both Myeshia Johnson and her mother.
I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2017
But as Trump attacked a grieving military widow, Congressional Republicans were completely silent online. Paul Ryan instead chose to tweet about tax reform, while Representative Steven Scalise re-tweeted condolences on the anniversary of the U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut — a tragedy which happened 34 years ago. Lindsay Graham did re-tweet an quote from an interview with Chuck Todd, where he simply explained that La David Johnson and his fellow soldiers were in Niger “to defend America”.
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) October 22, 2017
Several Democrats blasted Trump for attacking a Gold Star widow. Rep. Eric Swalell said that Americans should pay attention to the “the grief felt by families of fallen soldiers” while Rep. Alma S. Adams criticized Trump for his continued tit-for-tat with Representative Wilson. Rep. Ruben Gallego meanwhile called out Trump’s “appalling treatment” of fallen soldiers’ families.
I hope everyone watches this for a better sense of the grief felt by families of fallen soldiers. They loved our best. God Bless all of them https://t.co/68aAMyDt7W
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) October 23, 2017
— Alma S. Adams (@RepAdams) October 23, 2017
— Ruben Gallego (@RepRubenGallego) October 23, 2017
If you find yourself defending President Trump after he is attacking the widow of a fallen warrior, you might rethink that.
— Rep. Tim Walz (@RepTimWalz) October 23, 2017
Ms. Johnson told ABC News that she was also desperate to uncover the circumstances that led up to the tragic ambush. “I want to know why it took them 48 hours to find my husband,” Johnson said, adding that she was angry over not being allowed to view her husband’s body. “They won’t show me a finger, a hand. I know my husband’s body from head to toe and they won’t let me see anything. I need to see my husband.”
The circumstances leading up to the deaths of La David Johnson, as well as three other American servicemen including two Green Berets, remain unclear. According to Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., American troops are only advising and assisting in Niger. “We’re not directly involved in combat operations,” he said. “We’re not involved in direct action missions with partner forces.” Reports indicate that a team of around 12 U.S. special forces soldiers were on a joint patrol with 30 to 40 Nigerien soldiers. They were led into an ambush by Islamic militants, who then nearly overwhelmed them during an intense firefight. It is still unclear how Johnson got separated from his group or why it took so long to find his body. The Pentagon and the FBI have both announced investigations into the incident.