Donald Trump just lost his 4-star character witness.
That didn’t take long, did it? It's been less than three months since retired Marine Corps General John Kelly moved from Homeland Security secretary to White House chief of staff. Kelly’s new job, never an easy one, was to ease the infighting, fire the worst crackpots and bring some basic credibility to a president who often has trouble distinguishing between Breitbart News and the truth.
Kelly was actually making progress. Goodbye, Mooch! Goodbye, Bannon! Then Thursday, he marched into the briefing room to clean up the president’s latest, self-inflicted mess: a clumsy condolence call to a Gold Star family, a gratuitous attack on a Florida congresswoman and an inaccurate attack on previous U.S. presidents. Just another day in Trumpland, you know.
Kelly’s presentation started out promisingly, as he compellingly described how the U.S. military normally responds when a U.S. service member is killed. The iced-down body. The somber helicopter ride. The condolence officer’s careful words. Chilling stuff all around. Then, for no good reason, it all went to hell. Kelly began channeling his crude, truth-challenged boss, delivering an ugly, personal and, oh yeah, utterly false attack on congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
At a 2015 dedication of an FBI building in Florida, he said, she “stood up there…and talked about 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 just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money—$20 million—to build the building. And she sat down."
Unfortunately, a video proves none of that was true, except for the sitting-down part. Wilson wasn’t even in Congress when the money was approved.
Now, people make mistakes, even 4-star Marine Corps generals. That’s not the really bad part.
But faced with this glaring falsehoods, Kelly pulled a Trump. For four long days, the once-credible general has refused to take back a word of his slander. He dispatched White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders to double-down on phony assertions, while he has uttered not a word of apology.
What can you say?
The general learned from the master.
Duck, deny, accuse, rinse, repeat.
Metro columnist Ellis Henican is the best-selling author of a dozen books, including TRUMPITUDE: The Secret Confessions of Donald’s Brain, coming next month from Post Hill Press. He is on Twitter @henican.