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

Mary Trump book: How she leaked Trump financials to NYT

Simon & Schuster

In her new memoir, President Trump's niece reveals how she leaked hordes of confidential Trump family financial documents to the New York Times in an effort to expose her uncle, whom she portrays as a dangerous sociopath.

Why it matters: Trump was furious when he found out recently that Mary Trump, a trained psychologist, would be publishing a tell-all memoir. And Trump's younger brother, Robert, tried and failed to block the publication of "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 11,662,574 — Total deaths: 539,058 — Total recoveries — 6,336,732Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 2,948,397 — Total deaths: 130,430 — Total recoveries: 924,148 — Total tested: 36,032,329Map.
  3. Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index: Our response is becoming more polarized.
  4. Business: Breaking down the PPP disclosure debacle — Trump administration invests $2 billion in coronavirus drugs.
  5. World: Brazil's President Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus.
54 mins ago - World

Brazil's Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus

Photo: Andre Borges/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced Tuesday that he tested positive for coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil's coronavirus outbreak is one of the largest in the world, topped only by the U.S., and Bolsonaro has long downplayed the effects of the virus, pushing businesses to reopen over the last few months in order to jumpstart the country's economy.