Kelly says he advised Trump on calls to families of fallen soldiers – CNN

Kelly said he advised Trump on what to say before he called the families of the four fallen soldiers who died during an ambush in Niger and encouraged Trump to offer similar words that Gen. Joseph Dunford offered to Kelly when his own son was killed in Afghanistan.
Sources: Kelly didn't know Trump would publicize that Obama didn't call when his son diedSources: Kelly didn't know Trump would publicize that Obama didn't call when his son died
“He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were because we were at war,” Kelly said, channeling Dunford’s words to him upon the death of Kelly’s son. “And when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the President tried to say to the four families the other day.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson told CNN Tuesday evening that Trump told the widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”
Wilson, who listened in on the call via speakerphone, said on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday morning that Trump didn’t know the name of the service member and that his widow “broke down” after her call with the President.
Sgt. La David Johnson was among the four US soldiers killed by enemy fire in the October 4 ambush.
Trump, Dem congresswoman feud over his remarks to widow of fallen soldierTrump, Dem congresswoman feud over his remarks to widow of fallen soldier
Cowanda Jones-Johnson, a family member who raised Johnson, told CNN Wednesday that Wilson’s account of the call between Trump and Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, was “very accurate.” She said she was in the car when the call happened.
Trump denied Wilson’s account in both a tweet and a statement made at the White House.
“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all,” Trump told reporters during a meeting on tax reform in the Cabinet Room. “She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said.”
Trump said he had a “very nice” conversation with Johnson’s widow, “who sounded like a lovely woman.” Referring to Wilson, he added: “I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said.”
Kelly said it prompted him to leave the White House to go to Arlington National Cemetery and “go walk among the finest men and women on this earth.”

CNN’s Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.

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Today in Conservative Media: Trump’s Gold Star Comments Might Be the Stupidest Controversy Yet – Slate Magazine (blog)

Trump outside the White House on Tuesday.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images


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Conservatives surveyed the controversy over whether President Trump told the widow of a soldier killed earlier this month in Niger that he “knew what he signed up for.” National Review’s Rich Lowry called the matter—which came out of Trump’s claim Monday that Obama and other presidents hadn’t called the families of fallen soldiers—perhaps the “stupidest and most unworthy controversy of the year.” “[T]rump’s “knew what he signed up for” statement seems horrible in isolation, but it’s hard to know what to make of it except in context and listening to the conservation,” he wrote. “Now, Trump is engaged in a fight over what he really said. Is it too much to ask that everyone back off this one and not to add to anyone’s distress and leave condolence calls — if nothing else — out of our poisonous political debate?”

Michelle Malkin joined Trump in accusing Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, who first disclosed Trump’s remarks, of lying. Wilson’s story has been corroborated by the soldier’s mother.

I call bullshit. This is hearsay, uncorroborated, and out of context pot-stirring by Dem partisans riding the impeachment bandwagon–and recycled by lemmings masquerading as journalists.#fakenews

— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) October 18, 2017


At the Resurgent, Erick Erickson warned against rushing to judgement:

I would like to hear the full quote and context before rolling my eyes and saying something not nice about the President.

We live in an age where the false tweet gets 10,000 retweets and the correction gets 100. No one cares about facts, just resistance fan fiction. If it sounds true and makes the President look bad, it is, whether or not it happened.

I think I will wait.


RedState’s Andrea Ruth took on the late-breaking revelation that Trump promised $25,000 to a Gold Star family that was never delivered over the summer. After the Washington Post reported the incident, the White House claimed the check had been sent. “This is reminiscent of the fundraiser Trump held when he acted like a spoiled brat and skipped a Republican debate,” Ruth wrote. “All the monies raised from the event were promised to helping veterans organizations. But until the media shamed Trump after he won the election, the funds stayed in his accounts. I have no hope Donald Trump will learn any lesson from the latest news cycle over his call to LA David Johnson’s widow, but hopefully, he’ll learn not to make promises he doesn’t intend to keep to grieving Gold Star families.”

In other news:

Conservatives continued to weigh in on the national conversation over sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Ann Coulter accused four reporters at the New York Post of sidelining or downplaying details of the Ambra Battilana Gutierrez assault case in multiple articles:

Tina Brown explained exactly how Weinstein controlled reporters: “If there was any stirring of a negative story, Harvey would offer them a book contract, a development deal, a consultancy, and they used to succumb. Journalists are often short of money, and they were also very star-struck with the world that Harvey offered, which was movies and Hollywood.”

So what DID the bitter gossip girls get? Did Mara Siegler, Jamie Schram, Danika Fears or Maria Wiesner end up with phony “consultancies,” “book contracts” or “movie options” with Weinstein’s companies? (Paging the IRS!)

The only other explanation is that the Weinstein-compliant scandal sheets illustrate the oldest primal urge, one even more basic than the compulsion that drove Weinstein: Ugly girls taking their revenge on pretty girls.

Michelle Malkin—who has been behind a campaign defending Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer convicted of rape and assault in 2015—wrote about the #MeToo campaign and false rape accusations in National Review:

It’s one thing to break down cultural stigmas constructively, but the #MeToo movement is collectivist virtue-signaling of a very perilous sort. The New York Times heralded the phenomenon with multiple articles “to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment are.” The Washington Post credited #MeToo with making “the scale of sexual abuse go viral.” And actress Emily Ratajkowski declared at a Marie Claire magazine women’s conference on Monday: “The most important response to #metoo is ‘I believe you.’ ”

No. I do not believe every woman who is now standing up to “share her story” or “tell her truth.” I owe no blind allegiance to any other woman simply because we share the same pronoun. Assertions are not truths until they are established as facts and corroborated with evidence. Timing, context, motives, and manner all matter.

The Federalist’s Bre Payton responded to a Medium post listing ways men can support women. “Instead of telling men to act like women, we should be telling them to act like men and accept the responsibilities and expectations that have historically come with that privilege,” Payton wrote. “The women of The Federalist have compiled our own list of ways men can actually support women.” Items on the list included lifting heavy objects, marrying women, killing spiders, apologizing for being wrong, and grilling meat.

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George W. slams Trumpism, without mentioning president by name – Politico

Former U.S. President George W. Bush is pictured. | AP

Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Thursday. | Seth Wenig/AP

‘Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,’ Bush declared.




Former President George W. Bush offered an unmistakable denunciation of Trumpism Thursday without mentioning the president by name, urging citizens to oppose threats to American democracy.

“Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,” Bush warned in remarks at the Bush Institute’s Spirit of Liberty event in New York.

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By chance, Bush was standing in the same spot at the Time Warner Center where former President Barack Obama made a similar plea for democracy and American leadership in late September, shortly after President Donald Trump had finished a belligerent, isolationist speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

But unlike Obama, who campaigned intensely against Trump and has been taking sideways swipes at him since leaving office, Bush has said very little publicly about the current president, or about American politics at all. Thursday’s speech, in which he detailed what he sees as the causes for democratic collapse, the path forward and what were obvious references to Trump — even though, like Obama, he did not utter the president’s name — was a major departure in a speech that called on a renewal of American spirit and institutions.

“Bigotry in any form is blasphemy against the American creed and it means the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation. We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools,” Bush said. “And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”

“The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them,” he said.

This “unique moment,” Bush said, includes described a threat that he sees as worldwide, and pervasive throughout American society and politics.

“When we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with protecting and defending democracy,” he said, adding later: “We need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have great advantage. To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”

Bush spoke at the end of a half-day session that included a genial discussion between Trump’s United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, his former national security adviser and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

But Bush took a wider view, acknowledging the failures of divided partisan politics, paralyzed government, the media, institutions of democracy and more that has created a “deficit of confidence.” The problems of terrorism and nuclear proliferation are real, he said, as are the economic trends caused by globalization — but that is not an excuse for going into hiding.

“People are hurting. They’re angry and they’re frustrated. We must help them,” he said. “But we cannot wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the Agricultural Revolution or the Industrial Revolution.”
The tyrannies in North Korea and Venezuela are obvious and the fraying of democracies is clear in Europe, Bush said, but Americans must face the problems at home, too.

“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization,” he said. “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions, forgetting the image of God we should see in each other. We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, [and] forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”

All of this, he said, is even more important in the face of the attacks outsiders have made on American democracy. Citing the conclusion of all the American intelligence agencies about Russian interference in last year’s elections — which Trump has repeatedly dismissed himself —the former president warned against “subversion,” calling for stronger election security protections and cybersecurity, and a recognition of what is being attempted.

“This effort is broad, systemic and stealthy. It’s conducted across a range of social media platforms,” Bush said. “Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home.”

Bush’s speech comes three days after his former rival and fellow Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, delivered a similar attack on “spurious nationalism” and call to rediscover American ideals and American democracy in a speech in Philadelphia.

Some of the phrases echoed each other.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain said. “We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

Bush’s version: “Our identity as a nation, and unlike many other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility.”

That, Bush said, is why he has confidence that American will weather its current crisis, as he called on the examples of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal,” Bush said. The American spirit does not say, ‘We shall manage,’ or ‘We shall make the best of it.’ It says, ‘We shall overcome,’ — and that is exactly what we’re going to do, with God’s help.”

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Trump’s Condolence Call to Soldier’s Widow Ignites an Imbroglio – New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s condolence call to the widow of a slain soldier exploded into a vicious row that swamped the White House on Wednesday, with the soldier’s grieving mother accusing the president of disrespecting her family and a defiant Mr. Trump complaining that his words had been cynically twisted for political purposes.

The back-and-forth made a furious spectacle of what is, at the best of times, one of the most emotionally wrenching contacts between the commander in chief and a bereaved citizen. It overshadowed any talk of Mr. Trump’s legislative priorities and instead recalled his history of feuding with military families or even, as in the case of Senator John McCain, a war hero.

Twelve days after four Americans were killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger, the president called the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was among the slain, and said that her husband “knew what he signed up for,” referring to the soldier only as “your guy,” according to Sergeant Johnson’s mother and a Democratic congresswoman, who both listened to the call.

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Mr. Trump angrily disputed that account, insisting that he “had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman.” The White House accused the congresswoman, Frederica S. Wilson of Florida, of politicizing a sacred ritual after Mr. Trump initially said she “fabricated” it.

It was, to a great extent, a self-inflicted wound. Mr. Trump opened the issue on Monday when he deflected a question about why he had not spoken publicly about the deaths of the four soldiers by falsely accusing his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of not contacting the families of fallen troops.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump dragged his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, into the dispute. He told reporters that Mr. Obama had not called Mr. Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, when his son Second Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in action in 2010 in Afghanistan. Mr. Kelly, who has long been reluctant to talk about the loss of his son, did not comment on the issue.

But the White House presented Mr. Kelly as a character witness on Wednesday, noting that he was present for Mr. Trump’s call on Tuesday afternoon to Sergeant Johnson’s wife, Myeshia Johnson, and viewed it as a respectful expression of presidential sympathies.

“He thought that the president did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on behalf of the country,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. She said that Mr. Kelly is “disgusted by the way this has been politicized, and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that American lives were lost.”

It was Mr. Trump, however, who first put a spotlight on politics and process by comparing his practices with those of Mr. Obama and other presidents. Mr. Obama did, in fact, call or meet with the families of multiple fallen soldiers, though he sent letters to many others. Mr. Trump said he planned to call as many families of fallen soldiers as was “appropriate.”

His call to Ms. Johnson came as she and her two young children were in a limousine at Miami International Airport awaiting a plane carrying the remains of Sergeant Johnson. Mr. Trump spoke for three to five minutes, Ms. Wilson said.

“When she got off the phone, she said, ‘He didn’t even know his name. He kept calling him, ‘Your guy,’” Ms. Wilson said of Ms. Johnson. “He was calling the fallen soldier, ‘Your guy.’ And he never said his name because he did not know his name. So he kept saying, ‘Your guy. Your guy. Your guy.’ And that was devastating to her.”

Mr. Trump flatly dismissed Ms. Wilson’s account and suggested he would produce evidence to discredit it.

“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” he wrote in an early-morning Twitter post. He repeated his denial hours later, before a White House meeting with senators. “I didn’t say what that congresswoman said,” the president said. “Didn’t say it at all, she knows it.”

Ms. Wilson quickly fired back on Twitter. “I still stand by my account of the call b/t @realDonaldTrump and Myeshia Johnson. That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not ‘the woman’ or ‘the wife’” she wrote in a post.

Sergeant Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, backed the congresswoman’s version. “Yes, he did state that comment,” Ms. Jones-Johnson said, via message on Facebook, of Mr. Trump’s remark that her son “knew what he signed up for.”

By midafternoon, the White House was no longer disputing Ms. Wilson’s account of Mr. Trump’s choice of words. Ms. Sanders said the White House did not tape the call. But she said Ms. Wilson had willfully mischaracterized the spirit of the conversation.

“This is a president who loves our country very much, who has the greatest level of respect for men and women in uniform, and wanted to call and offer condolences to the family,” Ms. Sanders said. “To try to create something from that, that the congresswoman is doing, is frankly appalling and disgusting.”

The dispute over Mr. Trump’s condolence call topped several contentious issues that marked yet another rancorous day at the White House.

The president kept up his feud with the National Football League over players who take a knee in protest during the playing of the national anthem. And he revived his unproven charges that the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had lied, leaked information and protected Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s opponent in last year’s presidential election.

But the way Mr. Trump has handled grieving military families loomed over all, and thrust the sensitive issue of how presidents deal with the casualties of war to center stage. His reference to Mr. Obama’s lack of calls also drew furious responses from the former president’s aides and expressions of discomfort from former military commanders.

The feud with Sergeant Johnson’s family was reminiscent of a public fight Mr. Trump began with the parents of a Muslim American soldier, Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 in Iraq. The soldier’s parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, where Mr. Khan criticized Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s charged relationship with Gold Star families — those who have lost relatives in war — took another turn with the White House’s disclosure on Wednesday that it had sent a check for $25,000 to the family of Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, who was shot to death by an Afghan police officer, along with two other American soldiers, in June.

Mr. Trump had promised the check to Sergeant Baldridge’s father, Chris, in a phone call a few weeks after his son’s death, according to The Washington Post. But the president did not send the money until the newspaper inquired about it on Wednesday.

“For somebody to tell me they were going to give me something and then not come through, it feels like kicking me when I’m down,” Mr. Baldridge said Wednesday.

Some experts sympathized with the challenge Mr. Trump faced in placing condolence calls.

“It’s always been difficult for presidents,” said Peter D. Feaver, an expert in civilian-military relations at Duke University, “but in some ways, it’s become more difficult as the number of casualties dwindled, so each one can be individualized to a much greater extent.”

Other calls Mr. Trump has made to families have been well received. The president called Eddie Lee, the father of First Lt. Weston C. Lee, who was killed in April by a roadside bomb in Iraq, and told him, “I bet he never gave you a minute’s trouble as a child.”

“It’s true,” Mr. Lee said, chuckling, “he didn’t.”

“The president was just so nice and caring, you could hear it in his voice, you could tell what a caring family man he is,” said Mr. Lee, who volunteered, “I voted for Trump and I’d vote for him again.”

But the president’s call to Sergeant Johnson’s widow illustrated the pitfalls to his improvisational approach, according to other experts. Kori Schake, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University who specializes in civilian-military relations, said the account of Mr. Trump’s call suggested he did not follow the “time-honored rituals” of such calls.

“My guess is that he thought he was showing respect for the toughness and patriotism of people who sacrifice for something bigger than themselves, and just did it clumsily,” Ms. Schake said.

Correction: October 18, 2017

An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to Sgt. La David T. Johnson. He was serving in Africa with an Army Special Forces unit; he was not a Green Beret.

Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting from Washington, and Jesse James DeConto from Zebulon, N.C.

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Is Niger Trump’s Benghazi? Four US Soldiers Died and It Took Him 12 Days to Respond – Newsweek

“This might wind up to be Mr. Trump’s Benghazi.” 

Those are the words of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat who was present during a controversial phone call between President Donald Trump and the widow of one of the four U.S. special forces soldiers killed in Niger on October 4. 

The soldiers died in an ambush near the Niger-Mali border believed to be perpetrated by an ISIS-linked group. The president’s reaction to the deaths is being widely criticized as questions remain about U.S. involvement in Niger and Africa more generally. 

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Republican Senator John McCain, widely regarded as the top authority on military matters in the Senate, said Wednesday the Trump administration is not being upfront about what happened in Niger.

This is somewhat reminiscent of rhetoric surrounding what happened in Benghazi under the Obama administration. 

Indeed, some are suggesting there’s more to the Niger story. And Congresswoman Wilson isn’t the only one who’s begun to draw parallels between this situation and Benghazi.

Neera Tanden, president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, tweeted hyperbolically on Wednesday: “We had about 4000 Benghazi hearings. Why isn’t there a single one on the deaths of soldiers in Niger?”

Joy Reid, national correspondent for MSNBC, echoed these sentiments: “Where are all the Benghazi obsessives now that we have lost four special forces troops in Niger? Anyone? Hearings? Any interest at all?” 

What happened in Benghazi?

On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in an infamous terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya at the time, was killed.

The incident prompted an extensive, costly investigation and was a source of controversy for Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State when the attack occurred. It was still around as a thorn in her 2016 presidential campaign.

The Obama administration’s initial explanation of the attack, which was based on faulty CIA intelligence, led to accusations of a cover-up from Republicans. Some also accused the administration of withholding military assistance to the Benghazi compound.

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Clinton and the Obama administration were widely criticized, but no evidence of a cover-up was ever found, and House Republicans even released a report that cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing over Benghazi in June 2016. 

Still, Benghazi remains controversial and a talking point for conservative news outlets, especially Fox News. 

What happened in Niger?

The soldiers killed in Niger were part of a 12-man team of Green Berets, training Nigerian soldiers in a remote part of the country. These soldiers belonged to the Third Special Forces group based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

As they were leaving a meeting with local community leaders on October 4, they were ambushed by roughly 50 fighters believed to be linked to ISIS (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is also active in the surrounding region). 

The soldiers were driving unarmored pickup trucks and immediately returned fire. The firefight reportedly lasted roughly 30 minutes. It was eventually broken up via French air support and the soldiers were evacuated with helicopters. 

Initially, the government only confirmed three had been killed and two wounded in the incident, along with two. But it was eventually reported a fourth soldier had gone missing during the ambush. His remains were found by Nigerien forces roughly 48 hours after the ambush.

The Department of Defense at first withheld information about the missing soldier. The circumstances of how he was separated and the nature of his death are unknown. 

Many questions about what occurred remain, especially regarding why intelligence apparently didn’t indicate the soldiers would meet such heavy resistance. 

Are there any legitimate parallels between Benghazi and Niger?

Beyond the fact four Americans were killed in the respective incidents in Niger and Benghazi, the only parallel is the botched initial responses by both the Obama administration and Trump — responses that only led people to ask more questions about what went down.

It took Trump 12 days to respond to the deadly incident in Niger and he only did so after questioned by a reporter. In his response, Trump falsely claimed past presidents, including President Obama, didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers. He then called the widow and mother of one of the soldiers, Sgt. La David Johnson, only to end up disrespecting the family on Tuesday night. The president allegedly said Johnson “knew what he signed up for” during the call. 

Trump denied it, but Cowanda Jones-Johnson, the fallen soldier’s mother, told The Washington Post, Trump “did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.” 

Johnson was the soldier who was separated from the 12-man team during the ambush. The circumstances of Johnson’s death and the fact he was missing for two days is perhaps the most curious aspect of the incident in Niger. Specific details on why he was left behind have not yet emerged, hence the questions that have followed Trump’s controversial treatment of this deadly incident. 

The other three soldiers killed in the ambush have been identified as Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, 35; Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, 39; and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright, 29.

Why is the U.S. in Niger?

Many Americans may not have known the U.S. was present in Niger until this incident, which is another parallel to Benghazi.

The truth is the U.S. military has been involved in a broad effort to combat terrorism across Africa for years and Niger is just one of many countries the U.S. is currently present in. This started far before Trump — the U.S. military has had a presence in Niger since 2013, when Obama was still president. 

The U.S. military is also active in Chad, Somalia, Libya and Cameroon, among other countries in Africa. In May, a U.S. Navy Seal was killed in a raid on an Al-Shabab compound in Somalia. This was the first combat death involving a U.S. soldier in Somalia since the well-known “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993, which resulted in the deaths of 18 American service members.

At the moment, there are roughly 800 U.S. troops in Niger, and the U.S. is in the process of building a major drone base in the city of Agadez, located in central Niger. The four U.S. soldiers killed on October 4 were training Nigerien forces in the broader counterterrorism effort. 

The Department of Defense announced Tuesday it was launching an investigation into the incident in Niger. But is this “Trump’s Benghazi”? Only time — and maybe a congressional investigation or 4,000 — will tell.

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