NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Thursday defended how President Donald Trump handled the phone call to the widow of a fallen soldier. Kelly, a retired Marine general who lost a son serving in Afghanistan, spoke from experience and with emotion in the White House press room.
Kelly said he was so upset about the emerging political fight surrounding calls to Gold Star families that he had to take a long walk through Arlington National Cemetery to gather his thoughts. He finally decided to share his own story of grief while defending the president.
"He called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could," Kelly said of the president.
He also directly denounced Rep. Frederica Wilson, who described the president's call to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson as "disrespectful." Johnson was killed during an ambush in Niger.
"I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and broken-hearted, at what I saw a member of Congress doing," Kelly said.
Wilson, a longtime family friend, said she was with the soldier's pregnant widow during the president's call.
"She was crying, and she said [Trump] was calling him 'your guy,'" Wilson said. "He didn't even know his name."
Kelly said he told the president what to say during the call and added that nothing lightens the burden on these families. He also told Trump how he was informed about his own son's death.
"He said, 'Kel – he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed,'" Kelly said. "He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we're at war."
Earlier this week, Trump said past presidents didn't always call families of dead soldiers. Trump later pulled Kelly into the week-long political fight after revealing that then-President Obama didn't call Kelly after his son was killed in 2010.
"I can tell you that President Obama, who was my commander-in-chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family," Kelly said. "Now, that was not a criticism. That was just to simply say I don't believe President Obama called. That's not a negative thing. I don't believe President Bush called in all cases."
Three other soldiers were killed during that ambush in Niger: Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, all assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Several investigations are looking into what happened. The FBI announced that it is also a part of the probe.
Sen. John McCain said he may seek a subpoena to obtain information about just how these men were killed.