It’s the autocratic mindset’s default response to accountability: intimidate.
On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, made an appearance in the White House briefing room to defend President Trump against criticism that he’d mishandled a call with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed on Oct. 4 in an ambush in Niger. Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who heard the call, ripped Trump for having disrespected Johnson’s widow, Myeshia. In pushing Trump’s side of the story, Kelly claimed that Wilson had taken credit for securing funding for a Florida FBI building.
“A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down,” Kelly said in the briefing room.
As media accounts have noted: No, Wilson hadn’t, in fact, taken such credit.
So reporters were primed on Friday afternoon to take up the matter with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. What of this discrepancy? Will Kelly amend the record?
That’s what CBS News correspondent Chip Reid did. After he teed up the topic, Reid and Sanders had this exchange:
Reid: Can he come out here and talk to us about this at some point?
Sanders: I think he’s addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday.
Reid: He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money was … before she came into Congress.
Sanders: If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.
This is coming from an underling of the fellow who once said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”