- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2017

President Trump said Monday that he had personally penned letters to the family members of four American special forces soldiers killed in Niger, but he came under intense criticism for the nearly two-week delay.

The president also was faulted for saying former President Barack Obama didn’t always call families of fallen U.S. troops.

“I’ve written them personal letters. They’ve been sent, or they’re going out tonight, but they were written during the weekend,” Mr. Trump said when asked about it at a Rose Garden press conference.

“I want a little time to pass,” he said, adding that calling families is a tradition for him.

The four Green Berets were killed during a Oct. 1 raid in Niger.

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” said Mr. Trump. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I am able to do it.”

When pressed about the practice by Mr. Obama, who often talked about the tough job of making those calls, Mr. Trump said that he “was told that he didn’t often” do it.

The progressive political action group VoteVets slammed Mr. Trump.

“Donald Trump uses troops when he thinks he can benefit – like during his fake outrage over the NFL protests. But when four troops died in Niger, he went golfing, tweeted about the NFL, tweeted about ESPN, tweeted about Hillary Clinton, tweeted about Senator Corker’s height, and played some more golf,” said Iraq War veteran Jon Soltz, the group’s chairman.

“It’s highly questionable that he even wrote a letter to the families of the fallen ‘this weekend,’ at all, given his meandering and unsure response to the question over whether he contacted them,” he said. “Troops dying in service to America is a tragedy, and the families of the fallen deserve the comforting words of the Commander in Chief. Unfortunately, given his past smears of Gold Star families, it’s clear that in Donald Trump’s mind, some fallen service members are worth more than others.”

Mr. Obama’s former aide jumped to his defense.

“This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family,” Ben Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s former deputy national security advisor, wrote on Twitter.

Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House, said Mr. Trump’s remark was “a f—-ing lie.”

“To say president obama (or past presidents) didn’t call the family members of soldiers KIA - he’s a deranged animal,” she wrote on Twitter.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr. Obama’s defenders were mistaken on numerous fronts.

“The President wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact. When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, Presidents pay their respects. Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person,” she said. “This President, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former Presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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