WASHINGTON DC — Gold Star father Khizr Khan criticized White House chief of staff John Kelly Monday for his handling of President Donald Trump’s controversy with Gold Star families, following the death of four US soldiers in Niger.
“He was using those examples for political expediency in defense of Donald Trump,” Khan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”
Khan said in the aftermath of the Niger deaths, Kelly had focused on defending Trump “instead of honoring (the slain soldiers) and restraining from political expediency.”
Khan was thrust onto the national stage when he and his wife blasted Donald Trump at last year’s Democratic National Convention. Trump criticized Khan and his family after Khan spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
Kelly took to the White House podium last week and recounted how the bodies of soldiers killed in action are transported from the field of battle to their homes. He then transitioned to defending Trump’s controversial call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the four American servicemen killed in an ambush in Niger..
Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson — in an account backed up by Johnson — said that Trump in a phone call had told the widow of her husband that “he knew what he was getting into” — a phrase that deeply upset her. Trump insisted the call was polite and respectful, and that Wilson wasn’t telling the truth for partisan purposes.
Kelly said he was “stunned” by what the congresswoman told reporters after she listened in on Trump’s call to the widow of a fallen soldier.
Khan praised Kelly and his family’s service, but asserted that Kelly at the White House podium puts him into a political role, making a political statement.
“This is not the moment for political expediency,” Khan said. “That should have been the advice that was not given.”
In an interview with “Good Morning America” Monday morning, Johnson discussed her disappointment with the call, claiming she felt worse after speaking with the President. She said Trump “couldn’t even remember his name.”
Trump responded on Twitter shortly after the interview.
“I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!” Trump tweeted.
Speaking to Anderson Cooper, Khan said Trump “uses every moment that he gets to self-aggrandize.”
“It indicates something really serious — that there is no compass in the White House,” Khan added.