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John Kelly
  White House Briefing with John Kelly  CSPAN  October 19, 2017 5:04pm-5:26pm EDT

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, it is important, i can be there for you. you cannot be there. everything i see is important. tv, allcan history weekend, every weekend, only on c-span3. next come on c-span, white house chief of staff john kelly. he talks about counseling president trump before his call with the widow of one of the soldiers killed in a recent attack on u.s. troops in niger. son wasf of staff's killed in afghanistan. after that, we will hear from james mattis on the deadly attack in niger. >> good afternoon.
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as you all saw, earlier today, the president met with the governor of puerto rico this morning to discuss the ongoing hurricane recovery efforts. the administration is working tirelessly to help our fellow citizens recover and rebuild and we will stand with them throughout the process. it has been a while since i've had the opportunity to share a letter tom -- share a the president. this one is from mckenzie from dalton, georgia. she is seven years old and she is in the second great. she wrote, dear president trump, i'm writing to tell you how much i appreciate all that you are doing. i voted for you in my school election. d.c. ons bringing me to spring break this year and i am very excited. i cannot wait to see everything. i am most excited to see the white house. why mom says we have to write someone to ask if we can come in and i hope we can. i know you are a busy man that
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if you could meet me or if i could at least see your office, it would make my day. you are our leader, a hero, and a great man and i cannot wait to see you and help make america great again. sincerely, mckenzie. ps, i can bring something to eat if i come. i have always heard that food brings people together. mckenzie, i had the opportunity to share your letter with the president earlier today and he said he would love to have you come and visit us here at the white house. i will give you a tour personally and if the president is here come he would like to meet you. you are right about food bringing people together and so the press staff would like to invite you to have lunch here in the navy mess of the west wing. we look forward to your visit. we hope you will be in touch so we can make sure that that happens. on a more serious note, we have had a lot of questions come in and i addressed quite a few yesterday. moreught today it might be
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appropriate to have the chief of staff address some of those questions specific to outreach to gold star family straight he will address questions on that topic. if you have other questions throughout the day, the --sent-day art -- is here the press staff is here. note, in a more serious wanted to make more of a statement and provide an explanation than what amounts to be a traditional press interaction. most americans do not know what happens when we lose one of our soldiers, airmen, or marine in combat. i will tell you. his buddies wrapped them up in whatever passes as a shroud. and sends him on. -- and sent him home. the first staff -- stop is when they are packed in ice at the
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air head. and then they are flown, usually to europe. where they are then packed in ice again and flown to dover air force base. where the remains are taken care of. embalmedinvolved -- and meticulously dressed in their uniform with their medals and then puts them on another linked up with a casualty officer. a good movie to see is, "taking chance." killed on my command right next to me. that is the process. that is happening -- a casualty officer typically goes to the home, very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. and then he knocks on the door.
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typically, the mom and dad will answer. or a wife. if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places. if the parents are divorced, three different places. the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member. untilays with that family -- well, for a long time. even after the internment. who are these young men and women? they are the best 1% that these -- that this country produces. most of you, as americans, do not know them. likedon't know anyone them. they are the best this country produces and they volunteer to protect our country when there is nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that service to the nation is not only appropriate but required. but that is all right. who writes letters to the
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families? typically, the company commander. regimental commander. the secretary of defense. the service chief. and the president. callslly, the only phone the family receives, are the most important ones they can receive and that is from their buddies. after my son was killed, his friends were calling us from afghanistan telling us what a great guy he was. those are the only phone calls that really matter. the letters, -- count to a degree but there is not much that can take the edge off what the family members are going through. elected toents have call. all presidents i believe have letters.o send if you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most
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difficult thing you can imagine. there is no perfect way to make that phone call. talkedtook this job, and to president trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was that he not do it. it is not the phone call that parents, family members are looking forward to. my opinion,o do, in in any event. he asked me about previous presidents. i can tell -- i told him that president obama, who was my commander in chief, did not call my family. that is not a criticism. simply that i didn't believe that president obama called. i don't believe president bush called in all cases. i don't believe any president, particularly when the casualty rates are very high, the president's call. but i believe that they all
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rights. when i gave that explanation to our president three days ago, he elected to make phone calls for the four young men that we lost in niger earlier this month. he asked me how to make those calls. if you are not in the family, ad you have never worn uniform, if you have never been in combat, you cannot even imagine how to make the call. but, he very bravely does make those calls. a uniform, if you have never been in combat, you cannot even imagine how tothe call in queste made yesterday, or the day familywere to four members. there is the next of kin designated by the individual. if he is married, typically the spouse. if he is not married, it is typically the parents unless they are divorced. if he did not get along with his
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parents, he would select a sibling. the point is, a phone call is made to the next of kin, only if the next of kin agrees to take the phone call. sometimes they do not. a pre-call was made. asking if they would accept the call. typically, they accept the call. so, he called four people yesterday to express his condolences and the best way that he could. and he said to me, what do i say? sir, there is nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families. but let me tell you what i told him. let me tell you what my best me who joe dunford told was my casualty officer. he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed.
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intoew what he was getting by joining, that one present. he knew what the possibilities were because we are at war. and when he died, and in the four cases we were talking about, when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on earth, his friends. that is what the president tried to say to four families the other day. -- when i camene to work yesterday and brokenhearted when i saw what congress was doing. he listened in on a phone call from the president to a young wife. he was trying to express his opinion. he is a brave man. a fallen hero. he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted.
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there is no reason to enlist. but he was where he wanted to be. exactly where he wanted to be with the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken. that was the message. that was the message that was transmitted. that a member of congress would have listened in on that conversation. absolutely stuns me. and i thought -- at least that was sacred. growing up, aid lot of things were secret in our country. women were secret. and looked upon with great honor. that is not the case anymore as we have seen in recent cases. life was sacred. that is gone. religion, that seems to be gone as well. , i think thatly's left during the convention this summer. i just thought, the selfless devotion that brings a man or a woman to die on the battlefield, i just not that that might be
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sacred. when i listened to this woman and what she was saying and what she was doing on tv, the only thing i could do to collect my go walk amongo the finest men and women on this earth. and you can always find them, because they are in arlington national cemetery. i went over there for an hour and a half. i walked among the stones, some of whom i've put there because they were doing what i told them to do and they were killed. i will end with this. rather, of-- april, 2015, i was still on active duty and i went to the dedication of the new fbi field office in miami. two menwas dedicated to who were killed in a firefight in miami against drug traffickers in 1986. duke.named grogan and
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grogan was almost retired. but anyway, they got into a gunfight and were killed. three other fbi agents were there and were wounded. omey gave a and jim c brilliant speech to those fallen men and to all of the men and ourn in the fbi that serve country so well. there were family members there. wereof the children that there were only three years old are four years old when their dads were killed on that street in miami dade. three of them and that survived the fight were there and gave a rendition of how brave those men were in giving their lives. stood up andswoman in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and talked about
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how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building. and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money and she called president obama and on that phone call, he gave the money, to build the building. she sat down. and we were stunned. stunned that she had done it. even for someone who was that empty of a barrel. we were stunned. none of us criticized. none of us stood up and were appalled. we just said -- ok, fine. as you writeope, your stories, and i appeal to not let thisus last thing that is still sacred in our society, a young man or a young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country. let us try to somehow keep that
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secret. but, it eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of congress. i will take a question or two on this topic. is anyone you this -- here a goldstar parent or sibling? does anyone here know a goldstar parent or sibling? ok, you get the question. great deal ofly, respect for all you are done. if we could take this a bit further, why were they in niger? were intold that they armored vehicles without air cover. incident -- why are we there? kelly: i would start by saying there is an investigation. let me back up by saying, the fact of the matter is, young men and women are deployed around the world and there are tens of thousands.
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near the dmz. in north korea. in okinawa. okinawa, ready to go, all over the united states, training and ready to go. they are all over latin america. they mostly do drug interdiction work with our great partners. there are thousands. my own son, right now, is back in the fight for his fifth tour against isis. there are thousands of them in europe, acting as a deterrent. and in africa. and they are doing the nations work there. and not making a lot of money doing it. they love what they do. why were they there? they are there, working with partners, all across africa in this state, working with partners, teaching them how to be better soldiers. teaching them how to respect human rights.
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teaching them how to fight isis so that we do not have to send our soldiers and marines there in the thousands. that is what they were doing there. there is an investigation. there always is unless it is a very conventional death. conducted byn is which works directly for the secretary of defense. i spoke with jim mattis this morning and i think he made some comments this afternoon. an investigation does not mean anything went wrong or that heads are going to roll. but they need to find out what happened and why it happened. at the end of the day, you have to understand that these young people, or sometimes old guys, go to the uniform and where we send them to protect our country. sometimes, they go in large
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numbers to invade iraq or afghanistan. sometimes, they are working in small units and working with our partners in africa and asia and latin america -- helping them to be better. at the end of the day, they are better those partners be at fighting isis in north africa, to protect our country so we do not have to send large numbers of groups. anyone else that knows a goldstar fallen person? john? >> general, thank you for being here. and thank you for your service. there has been some talk about the time to -- of the timetable about the release of a statement. regarding the people killed in niger. and you walk us through the timetable about the release of that information? and what does the fact that there was a beacon pinging have to do with this?
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all, wekelly: first of are at the highest level of the u.s. government, the people that can answer those questions are the people on the other end of the military pyramid. i am sure the special forces group is conducting an investigation. that investigation is under the auspices of africon and will ultimately go to the pentagon. i have read the same stories you have. i do know more than i in letting him but i am not going to tell you. there is an investigation being done. but as i say, the men and women of our country that are serving all around the world -- what the hell is my son doing back in the fight? he is back in the fight because working with iraqi soldiers who are infinitely better than what they were a few years ago to
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take on isis directly so we don't have to do it. ace -- small numbers of marines where he is. working alongside those guys. -- we do not want to send tens of thousands of american soldiers to go fight. i will take one more but it has to be from someone that knows -- all right. >> general, when you talk about your intelligence telling you about the rushing connection? kelly: [indiscernible] that would be a question for acrfricon. thank you very much. as i walked off the stage, i am just saying there are tens of thousands of american kids, mostly, doing the bidding of the
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nation all around the world that don't have to do anything. when i was a kid, every man in my life that was a veteran, new the drill. these young people today, do not do it for any other reason than their sense of senseless -- selfless devotion to this great nation. you will never experience the wonderful joy you get in your things ouryou do the servicemen and servicewomen are doing. not for any other reason than they love our country. just think about that and i do appreciate your time. >> [indiscernible] >> did the president authorized the mission, general kelly?