Congresswoman accuses John Kelly of lying, escalating dispute over Donald Trump's condolence call

The response from Frederica Wilson was the latest in a series of political attacks between the representative and the White House.
The response from Frederica Wilson was the latest in a series of political attacks between the representative and the White House. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - US Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson said on Friday (Oct 20) that President Donald Trump's chief of staff lied about her role in a 2015 dedication ceremony for a federal building, escalating the back-and-forth jabs between her and the White House that started over a condolence call the President made to the wife of a fallen soldier.

"He can't just go on TV and lie on me," Wilson said on CNN on Friday, referring to John Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

"I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured."

"How dare he," Wilson, a Florida Democrat, said.

Wilson's response was the latest in a series of political attacks between the representative and the White House after Trump called Myeshia Johnson, the widow of a soldier who died in an Oct 4 ambush in Niger.

Kelly made unusual public remarks on Thursday, defending Trump's call earlier this week to Johnson, the wife of Sergeant La David T. Johnson, who was one of four soldiers killed in the attack.

Wilson overheard the call, which was on a speakerphone, and said that Trump's tone was not respectful and that he said the fallen soldier "knew what he signed up for".

Trump defended himself on Wednesday morning in a Twitter post, saying that Wilson "totally fabricated" the account.

The next day, Kelly defended the President and offered personal details about how he learned his own son had died in Afghanistan in 2010.

Kelly also had harsh words for Wilson and accused her of turning Johnson's death into a political stunt.

Kelly said he and the congresswoman were both at 2015 ceremony for a new FBI building in Miami that was named after fallen agents. Kelly said Wilson took credit for getting the funding for the building. Wilson's congressional district includes parts of Miami.

 
 
 

"And we were stunned - stunned that she'd done it," Kelly said.

"Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned."

Wilson said she had pushed for naming the building after two fallen FBI agents but never took credit for obtaining the funding to build it. The money was secured before she was elected to Congress in 2010, she said.

"He didn't tell the truth, and he needs to stop telling lies on me," Wilson said of Kelly on Friday.

The White House stands by Kelly's account, a spokesman said on Friday.

In another Twitter post on Thursday, Trump said that Wilson was "SECRETLY on a very personal call," and "gave a total lie" about what the President said.

Wilson, a friend of the Johnson family, was in a limousine with the family waiting at Miami International Airport to meet Johnson's coffin when Trump called. Wilson heard the call because it was on a speakerphone.