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Trump defends call to widow of soldier killed in Niger

US president Donald Trump has defended his call to the widow of an American soldier killed in Niger, saying he was "respectful" and that he did not forget the soldier's name.

Mr Trump addressed the call on Twitter after Myeshia Johnson, Sgt La David Johnson's widow, appeared on ABC's Good Morning America.

She said that in the president's call to her last week, he "couldn't remember my husband's name".

Mrs Johnson added: "The only way he could remember my husband's name was he told me he had my husband's report in front of him, and that's when he actually said 'La David'."

On Twitter, Mr Trump responded: "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!"

Sgt Johnson and three comrades died in October 4 following an attack in the west African nation.

Monday's exchange was the latest spat in an ongoing dispute over how Mr Trump responded to news that four US service members were killed in Niger.

Myeshia Johnson's TV appearance marked her first interview after a Democratic congresswoman accused Mr Trump of being callous in the call by telling the widow that her husband "knew what he signed up for".

Mr Trump had accused Frederica Wilson of fabricating the statement.

In other tweets, the president called the congresswoman "wacky" and accused her of "SECRETLY" listening to the phone call.

Mrs Johnson confirmed Ms Wilson's account on Monday, saying the congresswoman was a long-time friend who was with the family in the car when Mr Trump called and listened on speakerphone.

She said she had asked for the call to be put on speakerphone so relatives with her could hear.

"The president said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway," Mrs Johnson said.

"The only way he could remember my husband's name was, he told me he had my husband's report in front of him, and that's when he actually said La David."

The four US soldiers were killed when they were attacked by militants with links to Islamic State. The political conflict has steadily escalated for a week, with Ms Wilson attacking the administration and the president firing off insulting tweets.

White House chief of staff John Kelly entered the fray on Thursday.

The retired Marine general asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building", rather than keeping the focus on the agents who died, which the office was dedicated to.

Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.

Ms Wilson has asked Mr Kelly to apologise. Speaking on MSNBC's AM Joy, she called him a "puppet of the president" and accused him of character assassination.

AP

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