WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump escalated his feud on Saturday with Rep. Frederica Wilson after she suggested the controversy over his condolence call to the family of a slain soldier killed in Niger was racially charged.
Wilson, a black Florida Democrat, told The New York Times Friday that the White House is “full of white supremacists” a day after the White House chief of staff inaccurately derided her as he defended Trump’s call to the family of slain Sgt. La David Johnson, who also are black.
Just hours before Johnson’s funeral in Florida, Trump responded Saturday in a string of early morning tweets, posting, “I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!”
Trump also retweeted a post by a supporter showing a photo of Wilson with former President Barack Obama saying that Democrats were trying to distract from a scandal involving Obama and Clinton: “So they rolled out their last hope, Federica [sic] Wilson”.
Trump added, “People get what is going on!”
After a video emerged Friday to contradict White House chief of staff John Kelly’s attack on Wilson as a grandstander at a 2015 FBI ceremony, Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network that Wilson’s criticism of Kelly was “sickening.”
Trump also said he had had a “very nice call” with the late sergeant’s family.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that Kelly “absolutely” stood by his comments that Wilson was a noisy “empty barrel” for claiming at the dedication of a new FBI field office that she was “instrumental in getting the funding” for the building.
But the video of Wilson’s speech at the ceremony, posted by the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, shows Wilson didn’t mention obtaining funding but talked about her role in a bipartisan push on short notice to win approval for the FBI’s request to name the office for two special agents killed in a gunbattle, and effusively praised the FBI, first responders and the military.
Huckabee Sanders spawned another controversy by telling a reporter who asked her to bring Kelly back to answer questions about the discrepancy raised by the video, “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”
She also took her own shot at Wilson, who often wears cowboy hats, calling her “all hat and no cattle.”
The New York Times reported that Wilson called Kelly a liar in an interview.
“I feel very sorry for him because he feels such a need to lie on me and I’m not even his enemy,” Wilson told the Times. “I just can’t even imagine why he would fabricate something like that . . . I’m flabbergasted because it’s very easy to trace.”
She also hinted that race played a role in the controversy.
“The White House itself is full of white supremacists,” Wilson told the Times.
The Defense Department, with the assistance of the FBI, is investigating the details of the Niger ambush in which Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers were killed.
A funeral service was held for Johnson in Cooper City, Florida, on Saturday, attended by about 1,200 mourners, including Wilson.
A portrait of Johnson, 25, was joined on stage by photographs of his comrades also killed in the Oct. 4 ambush in Niger: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
“We have to remember that one thing — that it wasn’t just one soldier who lost his life,” said Berchel Davis, a retired police officer who has six children in the military.
Davis and others said the fight between Trump and Wilson was never mentioned during the service.