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At Thursday's briefing, the Chief of Staff only called on reporters who know gold star families for questions. Photo: Susan Walsh / AP

Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly said Thursday he did not receive a phone call from President Obama when his son was killed in Afghanistan. "That's not a criticism," Kelly added. He said that he initially advised Trump not to make phone calls to families.

Kelly told Trump, "There's nothing you can do to lighten the burden." The president called the four families who lost soldiers in Niger and offered condolences in "the best way he could ... It stuns me" that a member of Congress listened in on that phone call. "I thought at least that's sacred," he said. The Chief of Staff also confirmed that the president told Myeshia Johnson her husband "knew what he signed up for" and added Trump meant the statement as a testament to La David Johnson's heroism.

  • On soldiers who are killed in battle: "They are the best 1% this country produces."
  • Who writes letters to the families? The Secretary of Defense and the President "in my case," Kelly said.
  • Who calls the families? "Some presidents have elected to call. All presidents have elected to send letters." Obama and Bush typically did not make calls, Kelly said.
  • On the situation in Niger: "An investigation does not mean ... people's heads are gonna roll."
  • Kelly spent over an hour at Arlington Cemetery yesterday to "collect [his] thoughts."
  • To reporters, Kelly said: I appeal to you "as you write your stories to keep this one last thing sacred — men and women giving their lives for their country."
  • The Chief of Staff only called on reporters who know gold star families for questions.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.