Trump told Florida soldier's widow he knew ‘what he signed up for,' Congresswoman says

(NBC NEWS) -- A Florida congresswoman said that the family of a U.S. service member killed in Niger was "astonished" when President Donald Trump suggested in a phone call that the soldier "must've known what he signed up for."

Rep. Frederica Wilson told NBC Miami that she heard the president's comment to Sgt. La David T. Johnson's widow, Myeshia, on speaker phone as they traveled together to meet his body on Tuesday.

"He said, 'But you know he must've known what he signed up for,'" the Democrat recounted Trump saying more than once during the call to express his sympathy. According to Wilson, the conversation lasted somewhere from three to five minutes.

"Everyone knows when you go to war you could possibly not come back alive but you don't remind a grieving widow of that," Wilson said. "That's so insensitive."

Wilson confirmed the details of the call in an email to NBC News sent by a spokesperson Tuesday night. The statement from Wilson described Johnson’s family as "astonished" by Trump's comment.

"I wanted to curse him out. I asked the family to give me the phone so that I could, but they wouldn’t," Wilson added in the statement. "It was almost like saying, 'You signed up to do this, and if you didn’t want to die, shouldn’t have signed up.'"

Johnson was one of four U.S. service members killed in an ambush by militants in Niger that occurred on Oct. 4. Officials said they were participating in a train-and-advise mission with local forces.

Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, was found dead after initially being reported as missing after the attack.

He was a driver assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Military Times reported that Johnson has received awards and decorations including the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Army Parachutist Badge, the Army Air Assault Badge, the Driver and Mechanic Badge, and the Marksmanship Qualification Badge — Sharpshooter with Rifle.

The White House said Tuesday that the president had called the families of all four service members who were killed. "He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family's extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten," the White House said.

Asked about Wilson's characterization of the call, a White House official said Tuesday night that "the president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private."

Trump on Monday falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama didn’t call the families of fallen service members while he was in office, but when pressed admitted that he didn’t know Obama's practice.

© 2017 NBCNEWS.COM


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