WASHINGTON (AP) — A Florida congresswoman on Sunday asked White House chief of staff John Kelly to apologize for making false claims about her while defending President Donald Trump's handling of condolences to a military family.
Her comments and the president's insulting tweets escalated a political fight surrounding the deaths of four service members in the African nation of Niger.
Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson on Sunday called Kelly a "puppet of the president" and accused him of character assassination for asserting that she was grandstanding at a building dedication in the memory of two slain FBI agents in 2015. Kelly said Wilson talked about how she had been the driving force behind raising money for the building, but a video of her remarks contradicted his account.
The four U.S. soldiers were killed Oct. 4 in Niger when they were attacked by militants tied to the Islamic State. Wilson, speaking on MSNBC's "AM Joy," also criticized what she described as a lack of information from the Trump administration about the ambush.
Trump again criticized her early Sunday, describing Wilson on Twitter as "the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party."
The fight began Tuesday when Trump told the widow of 25-year-old La David Johnson that her husband "knew what he signed up for." Wilson was riding with the family and heard the call on speakerphone, sharing that comment publicly
Trump accused Wilson of fabricating that statement, and the fight escalated throughout the week. Trump in other tweets called her "wacky" and accused her of "SECRETLY" listening to the phone call.
Kelly entered the fray on Thursday with his comments about Wilson's appearance at the FBI field office dedication.
"The character assassination that he went through to call me ... 'an empty barrel,' and all of the work that I've done in this community," Wilson, who is from the Miami area, said Sunday. "Not only does he owe me an apology, but he owes an apology to the American people."