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Charges, insults fly after Trump assistant attacks congresswoman

Charges, insults fly after Trump aide assails congresswoman

Charges, insults fly after Trump aide assails congresswoman

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls on a member of the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Charges, insults fly after Trump aide assails congresswoman

JONATHAN LEMIRE and JILL COLVIN Associated Press

WASHINGTON –  WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is defending chief of staff John Kelly after he mischaracterized the remarks of a Democratic congresswoman and called her an “empty barrel” making noise. A Trump spokeswoman said it was “inappropriate” to question Kelly in light of his stature as a retired four-star general.

The administration also insisted it’s long past time to end the political squabbling and insult trading over President Donald Trump’s compassion for America’s war dead, even as it lobbed fresh vilification at Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson.

She kept the barbed exchanges going, adding a new element by suggesting a racial context.

Taking cues from a president who hates to back down, the administration on Friday staunchly backed Kelly, who a day before had denounced Wilson’s criticism of Trump — and added his condemnation of past remarks she had made at a Miami event.

Kelly said she delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building,” rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.

Wilson, in an interview Friday with The New York Times, brought race into the dispute.

“The White House itself is full of white supremacists,” said Wilson, who is black, as is the Florida family Trump had called in a condolence effort this week that led to the back-and-forth name calling.

Trump, in an interview with Fox Business Network, then called Wilson’s criticism of Kelly “sickening.” And, in a comment that seems unlikely to be the last word, he said he actually had had a “very nice call,” with the family of Sgt. La David Johnson.

It all started when Wilson told reporters that Trump had insulted the family of Johnson, who was killed two weeks ago in Niger. She was fabricating that, Trump said. The soldier’s widow and aunt said no, it was the president who was fibbing.

Then Kelly strode out in the White House briefing room on Thursday, backing up the president and suggesting Wilson was just grandstanding — as he said she had at the FBI dedication in 2015.

After news accounts took issue with part of that last accusation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chastised reporters Friday for questioning the account of a decorated general.

“If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” she said. “But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and an Air Force veteran, rejected Sanders’ contention that questioning a general was out of line, saying simply, “No, not in America.”

Video of the FBI office dedication in Miami, from the archives of South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, shows that Wilson never mentioned the building’s funding, though she did recount at length her efforts to help name the building in honor of the special agents.

That did nothing to deter Sanders, who said “If you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel.”

Sanders also used a dismissive Southwest rancher’s term, calling Wilson, who often wears elaborate hats, “all hat and no cattle.”

Wilson was in the car with the family of Johnson, who died in an Oct. 4 ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger, when Trump called to express his condolences on Tuesday. She said in an interview that Trump had told Johnson’s widow that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts.” Johnson’s aunt, who raised the soldier from a young age, said the family took that remark to be disrespectful.

The Defense Department is investigating the details of the Niger ambush, in which Islamic militants on motorcycles brought rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing the four and wounding others. The FBI said it is assisting, as it has in the past when American citizens are killed overseas.

Sanders said Friday that if the “spirit” in which Trump’s comments “were intended were misunderstood, that’s very unfortunate.”

Trump told associates he was furious about what he perceived as unfair media coverage of the phone-call controversy. He posted on Twitter late Thursday: “The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!”

Wilson said the family had put his phone call on speakerphone, and stood by her account.

Sanders said Trump chose to tweet about the controversy because it “should have ended yesterday after General Kelly’s comments. But it didn’t. It continued, and it’s still continuing today.”

Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, was outraged over what he saw as Wilson trying to score political points off a tragedy, according to two White House officials not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Sanders said it was “a personal decision” by Kelly to discuss the matter publicly.

Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Washington and Terry Spencer in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, contributed reporting.

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Colvin at http://twitter.com/@colvinj

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is defending chief of staff John Kelly after he mischaracterized the remarks of a Democratic congresswoman and called her an ’empty barrel’ making noise. A Trump spokeswoman said it was ‘inappropriate’ to question Kelly in light of his stature as a retired four-star general. The administration also insisted it’s long past time to end the political squabbling and insult trading over President Donald Trump’s compassion for America’s war dead, even as it lobbed fresh vilification at Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson. She kept the barbed exchanges going, adding a new element by suggesting a racial context. Taking cues from a president who hates to back down, the administration on Friday staunchly backed Kelly, who a day before had denounced Wilson’s criticism of Trump — and added his condemnation of past remarks she had made at a Miami event. Kelly said she delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she ‘talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building,’ rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection. Wilson, in an interview Friday with The New York Times, brought race into the dispute. ‘The White House itself is full of white supremacists,’ said Wilson, who is black, as is the Florida family Trump had called in a condolence effort this week that led to the back-and-forth name calling. Trump, in an interview with Fox Business Network, then called Wilson’s criticism of Kelly ‘sickening.’ And, in a comment that seems unlikely to be the last word, he said he actually had had a ‘very nice call,’ with the family of Sgt. La David Johnson. It all started when Wilson told reporters that Trump had insulted the family of Johnson, who was killed two weeks ago in Niger. She was fabricating that, Trump said. The soldier’s widow and aunt said no, it was the president who was fibbing. Then Kelly strode out in the White House briefing room on Thursday, backing up the president and suggesting Wilson was just grandstanding — as he said she had at the FBI dedication in 2015. After news accounts took issue with part of that last accusation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chastised reporters Friday for questioning the account of a decorated general. ‘If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,’ she said. ‘But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.’ Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and an Air Force veteran, rejected Sanders’ contention that questioning a general was out of line, saying simply, ‘No, not in America.’ Video of the FBI office dedication in Miami, from the archives of South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, shows that Wilson never mentioned the building’s funding, though she did recount at length her efforts to help name the building in honor of the special agents. That did nothing to deter Sanders, who said ‘If you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel.’ Sanders also used a dismissive Southwest rancher’s term, calling Wilson, who often wears elaborate hats, ‘all hat and no cattle.’ Wilson was in the car with the family of Johnson, who died in an Oct. 4 ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger, when Trump called to express his condolences on Tuesday. She said in an interview that Trump had told Johnson’s widow that ‘you know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts.’ Johnson’s aunt, who raised the soldier from a young age, said the family took that remark to be disrespectful. The Defense Department is investigating the details of the Niger ambush, in which Islamic militants on motorcycles brought rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing the four and wounding others. The FBI said it is assisting, as it has in the past when American citizens are killed overseas. Sanders said Friday that if the ‘spirit’ in which Trump’s comments ‘were intended were misunderstood, that’s very unfortunate.’ Trump told associates he was furious about what he perceived as unfair media coverage of the phone-call controversy. He posted on Twitter late Thursday: ‘The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!’ Wilson said the family had put his phone call on speakerphone, and stood by her account. Sanders said Trump chose to tweet about the controversy because it ‘should have ended yesterday after General Kelly’s comments. But it didn’t. It continued, and it’s still continuing today.’ Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, was outraged over what he saw as Wilson trying to score political points off a tragedy, according to two White House officials not authorized to discuss private conversations. Sanders said it was ‘a personal decision’ by Kelly to discuss the matter publicly. ___ Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Washington and Terry Spencer in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, contributed reporting. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Colvin at http://twitter.com/@colvinj

  • FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s chief of staff distorted the facts when he accused a ‘selfish’ Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson of grandstanding at a building dedication in the memory of two slain FBI agents in 2015. John Kelly said she stunned the audience at the somber ceremony by recounting how she had been the driving force behind raising money for the building, the FBI’s South Florida headquarters. But a video of her remarks at the dedication shows she never took credit for getting the government to come up with the money for the project. Indeed, the building was approved several years before she entered Congress. The long-ago episode has become caught up in a swirl of recriminations, sparked days ago when Trump made an empty boast that he surpassed previous presidents in reaching out to families of the fallen. One such outreach backfired, leaving a family feeling that their late son, Sgt. La David Johnson, was disrespected by Trump in a phone conversation with his widow, according to the aunt who raised him. In addition, both Trump and Kelly implied nefarious motives by Wilson in listening to that call — ‘SECRETLY,’ as Trump put it in a tweet. Trump called while Wilson was in the car with the widow — a friend — and other family members, and the call was put on speakerphone. In that circumstance, the limo driver listened in, too — there was no escaping it. On Thursday, flush with fury, Kelly spoke about the building dedication and more as he challenged Wilson’s criticisms of Trump’s behavior on the phone with Myeshia Johnson. Her husband was one of U.S. four soldiers killed in Niger early this month. A look at Kelly’s comments and Trump’s tweet: KELLY: ‘And 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. And we were stunned, stunned that she’d done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.’ THE FACTS: Kelly’s recollection is incorrect. In her nine-minute speech at the April 10, 2015, dedication ceremony, a video of which was found by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Wilson never mentions the building’s financing. She did, though, spend up to three minutes talking about an effort she did lead — to have the building named after the special agents, Ben Grogan and Jerry Dove, who were killed in a 1986 gun battle in Miami. She recounted how she was asked by the FBI four weeks earlier to expedite a bill through Congress to name the building after Grogan and Dove. She said the process normally takes eight months to a year. ‘I went into attack mode,’ she told the audience. She said she approached then-Speaker John Boehner, telling him ‘the FBI needs your help and our country needs your help.’ She said Boehner got the bill to the House floor for a vote in two days. She said she then rushed the bill to Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who got the bill passed by that chamber two days later. President Barack Obama signed the bill three days before the dedication ceremony. The audience responded with loud applause. ‘It’s a miracle but it speaks to the respect that our Congress has for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,’ she said. She then asked all first responders to stand so they could receive applause. Wilson then recited the biographies of agents Grogan and Dove and detailed the gun battle in which they were killed and five other agents wounded. After the video emerged, the White House tried to amend Kelly’s complaint. Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Kelly was stunned that the Democratic congresswoman talked about ‘her own actions in Congress’ at the event, glossing over Ke;;y’s erroneous claim that Wilson had bragged about raising the money. ___ KELLY: ‘It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.’ TRUMP: ‘The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!’ THE FACTS: Kelly also listened in on what Trump called a ‘very personal call.’ So did other people in the White House. ‘There were several people in the room from the administration that were on the call, including the chief of staff, General John Kelly,’ Sanders confirmed this week. At the other end, Trump’s call came when the family was in a limousine at or en route to Miami International Airport to meet Johnson’s casket. The slain soldier’s aunt and uncle, Richard Johnson and Cowanda Jones-Johnson, who raised him as parents, were in the car. So was Johnson’s wife and the Democratic congresswoman. Wilson knew Sgt. Johnson as a member of her 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, founded to help minority boys find success in life. She said in TV interviews she wasn’t secretly listening in — everyone in the car heard — and in fact wanted to get on the call and ‘curse him out’ but was not given the phone. A president’s phone calls to bereaved military families are generally not made public, but that’s not to say anyone is sworn to secrecy. Natasha De Alencar, widow of Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, released video of her conversation with Trump, which she found comforting. The video has been playing on CNN and the White House has not complained publicly. ___ Woodward reported from Washington. Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

  • “Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage and his wife, Erica Schmidt, welcomed their second child, Us Weekly reported Friday. >> Read more trending news It is the second child for the couple. Their daughter was born in 2011, Us Weekly reported. The couple did not publicly confirm the second pregnancy, but Us Weekly confirmed they were spotted with their newborn at a concert in September. Dinkage plays the part of Tyrion Lannister on “Game of Thrones,” which ended its seventh season in August.

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