Johnson, La David T (1992-2017)

Congresswoman Accuses Kelly of Lying, Escalating Dispute Over Trump’s Condolence Call

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Mr. Trump defended himself on Wednesday morning in a Twitter post, saying that Ms. Wilson “totally fabricated” the account. The next day, Mr. Kelly defended the president and offered personal details about how he learned his own son had died in Afghanistan in 2010.

Mr. Kelly also had harsh words for Ms. Wilson and accused her of turning Sergeant Johnson’s death into a political stunt.

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White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Thursday. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Mr. Kelly said he and the congresswoman were both at the 2015 ceremony for a new F.B.I. building in Miami that was named after the fallen agents. Mr. Kelly said Ms. Wilson had taken credit for getting the funding for the building. Ms. Wilson’s congressional district includes parts of Miami.

“And we were stunned — stunned that she’d done it,” Mr. Kelly said. “Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”

Ms. Wilson said she had pushed for naming the building after the two fallen F.B.I. agents but never took credit for obtaining the funding to build it. The money was secured before she was elected to Congress in 2010, she said.

“He didn’t tell the truth, and he needs to stop telling lies on me,” Ms. Wilson said of Mr. Kelly on Friday.

During the April 2015 dedication ceremony for the building that houses the F.B.I.’s South Florida operations, Ms. Wilson spoke about how quickly she was able to get a bill through the typically slow and bureaucratic Congress to name it after Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove., the agents who were killed in a 1986 shootout.

“It is a miracle to say the least,” Ms. Wilson said of the swift legislative action. But, she said, the quick passage shows how much respect Congress has for the F.B.I.

“Most men and women in law enforcement leave their homes for work knowing that there is a possibility they may not return,” Ms. Wilson said.

A White House spokesman on Friday said it stood by Mr. Kelly’s account of her remarks.

In another Twitter post on Thursday, Mr. Trump said that Ms. Wilson was “SECRETLY on a very personal call,” and “gave a total lie” about what the president had said.

Ms. Wilson, a friend of the Johnson family, was in a limousine with the family waiting at Miami International Airport to meet Sergeant Johnson’s coffin when Mr. Trump called. Ms. Wilson heard the call because it was on a speakerphone.

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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