The Slatest

White House Had No Idea if Trump Really Called Nearly All Gold Star Families

President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a meeting with Governor Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico in the Oval Office at the White House on October 19, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The White House went into damage-control mode shortly after President Donald Trump said in an interview on Oct. 17 that he had called the families of “virtually everybody” in the military who has been killed this year. Turns out, senior administration officials had no idea if that was true, and they quickly got to working in getting an up-to-date list of those who had been killed since Trump’s inauguration, according to emails reported by Roll Call.

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On the same day as Trump made the claims of having called nearly all the families of military dead, the White House asked the Pentagon for updated information about contact information for surviving family members. Capt. Hallock Mohler, the executive secretary to Defense Secretary James Mattis, provided the information in an email saying it had been requested “ASAP” from an aide on the National Security Council.

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“I have called, I believe, everybody — but certainly I’ll use the word virtually everybody,” Trump said in a Fox News Radio interview. But since then the Associated Press carried out a quick survey of the families of military members who were killed since Trump became president and quickly found out Trump’s words were an exaggeration as relatives of nine members of the military who were killed said they had not heard from the commander in chief.

That helps explain why administration officials later used careful and ambiguous language when reporters asked for confirmation that Trump had indeed called “virtually everybody” as he claimed. “The president’s made contact with all of the families that have been presented to him through the White House Military Office,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a briefing the day after Trump’s statement. “All of the individuals that the president has been presented with through the proper protocol have been contacted through that process.”

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