President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was “extremely nice” and “extremely respectful” to the widow of a soldier killed in an ambush in Niger when he spoke to her on a condolence call last week, the latest indication of ongoing discord between the White House and the family of Sgt. La David Johnson.
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Trump shared the sentiment with reporters from the White House South Lawn Wednesday, two days after Myeshia Johnson told ABC News she was “very angry” at the president after he called to speak with her following the death of her husband.
“I can only say this. I was really nice to her,” said Trump. “I respect her. I respect her family.”
‘I was very angry’ at Trump, says Myeshia Johnson, widow of fallen soldier
Trump hits back at Army widow’s account of his condolence phone call
The president continued by refuting Myeshia Johnson’s claim that Trump forgot her husband’s name during the call. She told ABC News Monday that she “heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name.”
“That’s what hurt me the most, because 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?” said Myeshia Johnson.
“I certainly respect La David, who, by the way, I called ‘La David’ right from the beginning, just so you understand,” Trump told reporters. “They put a chart in front: La David. It says ‘La David Johnson.’ So right from the beginning, no hesitation.”
“One of the great memories of all time,” he continued, pointing to his head. “There was no hesitation. I think she’s a fantastic woman. I was extremely nice to her. Extremely respectful.”
‘Great unity in the Republican Party’
During the appearance, which came as he walked to Marine One to begin a trip to Texas, Trump further downplayed a day of criticism from two GOP senators Tuesday, telling reporters at the White House that “there is great unity in the Republican Party.”
The evaluation came a day after the president engaged in a tense back-and-forth with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who labeled Trump as “utterly untruthful,” and faced a blistering attack from Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who pointed to the chief executive as decried the “undermining of democratic norms.”
Trump said he had a “great conversation” with Republican senators at a policy lunch at the Capitol Tuesday, going so far as to call it a “love fest.”
“We got standing ovations,” he said. “There is great unity. I mean, if you look at the Democrats with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, that’s a mess. There’s great unity in the Republican Party.”
The president further attacked Flake, who announced he would not be running for re-election as part of his remarks addressing Trump at the state of politics from the Senate floor Tuesday. Trump said the junior Arizona senator has poll numbers “so low that he couldn’t win” and characterized him as a minor player at the Capitol.
“The first time I saw him on television, I said, ‘I assume he’s a Democrat,'” Trump said, before noting that Flake generally voted along party lines and adding that he felt the senator would support the party’s tax reform efforts.
‘I went to an Ivy League school’
On the topic of his relationships with members of Congress, Trump pushed back on one reporter’s question as to whether he should “be more civil” by claiming that the media exaggerates the levels of supposed animosity.
“I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am,” he said, going on to support the notion by referencing his level of education and intelligence.
“You know, people don’t understand. I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I’m a very intelligent person,” Trump said. “You know, the fact is, I think, I really believe — I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.”
Trump attended the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Ivy League, where he received his bachelor’s degree in economics, for two years after spending his freshman and sophomore years at Fordham University in New York.