President Trump took an unusual step and offered money to the father of an army corporal killed in Afghanistan in June, according to the Washington Post. That news comes amid scrutiny for the president’s duties of consoling the families of service members killed in action, ignited by Trump’s recent comments. Hari Sreenivasan learns more about the story from Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post.
Army Corporal Dillon Baldridge was killed in Afghanistan in June. He and two fellow soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan police officer suspected of an insider attack.
Baldridge's father was disturbed by the details of his son's death and expressed that to President Trump in a phone call. Mr. Trump then apparently took an unusual step for a commander in chief: He offered money.
Dan Lamothe helped break that story for The Washington Post, joins me now.
Thanks for joining us.
So, how did this phone call go?
DAN LAMOTHE, The Washington Post:
Yes, so several weeks after the soldier's death, the president made a call to North Carolina, where the father lives. They had a conversation that the father describes mostly as respectful.
The father expressed some frustration with the way that the death gratuity, basically a benefit that the family received, was going to his ex-wife, rather than some part to him. And the president's response caught him by surprise. He said, well, I'm going to make sure we write you a $25,000 check, you know, basically for your troubles.
And did that check ever arrive? The White House said that they sent it late today.
Yes, so we reached out this morning and received no response for several hours. As of today, the father had not received a check, so the assumption here would be that the check had not been sent until we reached out to the White House this morning to verify this father's report.
And you discovered this conversation in — kind of the story has a larger context.
You reached out to several different families, Gold Star families, for what happened after their family member died.
I mean, we have got this larger conversation this week. It's a very sensitive, very politically charged conversation. And at the center of it are grieving families. So, we thought it was important to reach out to those grieving families. Some of them, obviously and understandably, did not want to speak to us, but quite a few of them did.
And we found that about half of the ones we reached — we reached 13 different families that had lost loved ones since Trump became president — and half of them had received calls from the president. Half of them had not. The majority of the ones who had not were upset when they heard his comments earlier this week that he had called out — called all of them.
And there was even some families or at least one family that had not received anything, no phone call or even a letter.
And you wonder what's going on there, because that is something that is typically just generated. There are form letters of sorts that the president then signs. There was a time during the height of the Iraq War when we had hundreds of American casualties per month.
We're now looking at something on the order of several dozen this year, so it's a much smaller amount. So for this to slip through the cracks at this point is very much a surprise.
How different is this from — when you say logistically, when you think about the number of casualties that were happening in the middle or the height of the Iraq War or the Afghanistan conflict, how different is this time period than what perhaps President Bush or President Obama was dealing with?
It's an order of magnitude smaller.
At the height of the Afghan war, we were talking something on the order of 400 or 500 American fatalities per year in combat. At the height of the Iraq War, we were talking several hundred per month.
So, at this point, we do have casualties. Each one is sad, but it's a much smaller number. And for the White House to have not kept up was a surprise.
Already, Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post, thanks so much for joining us.
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