Donald Trump has claimed wrongly that his predecessors at the White House did not call families of fallen military personnel, and faced an immediate backlash from former Barack Obama aides.
In an impromptu and free-wheeling press conference on Monday, the US President was asked about the four US soldiers killed in Niger last week.
Trump told reporters he planned to call the parents and families of those who were killed. Turning the focus back to himself, he went on:
“The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens - soldiers are killed.
“It’s a very difficult thing. Now it gets to a point where you make four or five of them in one day, it’s a very, very tough day. For me that’s by far the toughest,” he said.
“So the traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them, didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls, I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”
Several former aides of Obama called Trump a ‘liar’ as soon as he made the comment.
Alyssa Mastromonaco, who worked at the White House under Mr Obama, tweeted it was a “f****** lie”, adding Trump was a “deranged animal”.
Later in the the news conference, Trump was pressed on his claim.
Trump modified his position - slightly - and claimed that he was “told” Obama didn’t often call the families of fallen soldiers. Trump said:
“And a lot of presidents don’t, they write letters...I do a combination of both. Sometimes, it’s a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both. President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t, I don’t know, that’s what I was told.”
But Trump would not let it lie, claiming again with zero evidence that other presidents did not call. “And some presidents didn’t do anything,” he said. “I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter.”
The reporter who challenged Trump, Peter Alexander, spoke to a former Obama White House official who dismissed the claim out of hand.
During the 2016 election campaign, Trump engaged in a war of words with Khizr Khan, the father of a soldier who was killed in action.
Trump has also criticised Republican senator and former prisoner of war John McCain, saying that he prefers soldiers who don’t get captured.