President Trump has been criticized for saying nothing following the deadly ambush earlier this month that killed four U.S. soldiers in Niger, but just one day after the attack, National Security Council staffers drafted a statement for Trump expressing his condolences, Politico reports. For some reason, it was never released.
On Wednesday, Politico saw a copy of the statement, which read in part: "Melania and I are heartbroken at the news that three U.S. service members were killed in Niger on Oct. 4 while providing guidance and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these brave American soldiers and patriots. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers." (After the statement was drafted, the body of a fourth soldier killed in the ambush was discovered.) An NSC staffer emailed the statement out at 10:01 a.m. on Oct. 5, and NSC and Pentagon officials read it, Politico reports, but it's unclear why the message was never released. When a Politico reporter called the NSC employee who wrote the statement to ask about it, that person hung up, and the council's spokesman declined to comment.
On Oct. 5, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration's "thoughts and prayers" were with the families of the fallen, but Trump remained mum until Monday, when a reporter asked him why he had been silent about the matter. Trump tried to deflect by falsely claiming that former President Barack Obama rarely if ever called the families of soldiers who had died, and the issue took on a new complexity on Tuesday, when a congresswoman accused Trump of making "insensitive" remarks to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, telling her Johnson knew what he was signing up for. Trump, on Twitter, suggested he hadn't said that.