As the controversy surrounding President Trump’s condolence call to a Gold Star widow rolled into its third day, the White House continued to play defense.
Much of Friday’s effort was on behalf of White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, who one day earlier had criticized Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) for allegedly boasting during an April 10, 2015, dedication ceremony that she secured funding for a federal building named for two slain FBI agents.
Video emerged Friday showing Wilson said no such thing. In response to a reporter’s question, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders warned against getting into a debate with Kelly over whether he misstated facts.
“If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that’s up to you,” Sanders said Friday.
Kelly also is a Gold Star parent, having lost a son in Afghanistan. His military career spanned more than 40 years.
“But,” Sanders continued, “I think that — if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”
There is, of course, an archival Trump tweet for just about every occasion.
In this case, there are at least three in which Trump slammed four-star generals — occasionally for slamming him.
Gen. Colin Powell
This Sept. 14, 2016, tweet followed the disclosure of more than two years’ worth of emails by former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, which were leaked by a hacker.
Though the emails contain criticism of other political and military figures, including Hillary Clinton, Powell reserved his greatest disdain for Trump. He called the billionaire a “national disgrace and an international pariah” who gave voice to a “racist” movement to question President Barack Obama’s citizenship.
The Powell disclosures were posted on a site analysts have linked to the Russian government.
In a 35-year military career, Powell headed the armed forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and rose become a four-star general. Under President George H.W. Bush, he became the first African American to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and later became the first African American to serve as secretary of state, during President George W. Bush’s first term.
Last year, the National War College named a hall after Powell.
Gen. John R. Allen
Trump’s attack on retired Marine Gen. John Allen came a day after the four-star general spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where he indirectly assailed the then-Republican candidate’s support for waterboarding and his approach to international relations, The Washington Post reported.
“With her as our commander in chief, our international relations will not be reduced to a business transaction,” Allen said of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials. “I also know that our armed forces will not become an instrument of torture, and they will not be engaged in murder or carry out other illegal activities.”
Later that day at a campaign rally, Trump again criticized Allen.
“They had a general named John Allen, and he — I never met him,” Trump said. “And he got up and he started talking about Trump, Trump, Trump. Never met him. And you know who he is? He’s a failed general.”
Allen served as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and was Obama’s top choice to oversee U.S. and NATO operations in Europe, but instead he retired to assist his wife with chronic health issues, The Post reported. He would later serve as special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in 2014, a position he held for a year.
Gen. Martin Dempsey
Around the time of these September 2013 tweets, then-President Obama was reportedly weighing a military strike against Syria that would be of limited scope and duration, designed to serve as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons and as a deterrent, The Post reported.
Gen. Martin Dempsey was Obama’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2011 to 2015, and he had previously warned about the risks and pitfalls of U.S. military intervention in Syria.
“As we weigh our options, we should be able to conclude with some confidence that use of force will move us toward the intended outcome,” Dempsey wrote in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee in July 2013. “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
Dempsey headed efforts to train Iraqi security forces during the height of a sectarian war “that ripped the country apart as Shiite militias and death squads as well as Sunni groups linked to al-Qaeda slaughtered thousands of people,” according to Reuters.
More recently, after Trump erroneously claimed other presidents did not call the families of slain American soldiers, Dempsey said in a tweet Obama and George W. Bush “and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families.”