Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Former Fox News Host Eric Bolling said it was “beyond inappropriate” for his former colleague, Bill O’Reilly, to have told New York Times reporters that his son had died as a result of reporting about him.

O’Reilly brought up the death of Bolling’s son, which occurred hours after Fox News announced Bolling was leaving the network following sexual harassment allegations, in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday. The Times published audio clips of the interview on Monday in its “The Daily” podcast.

“I urge you to think about what you put in your newspaper. Eric Bolling’s son is dead,” O’Reilly told the Times reporters interviewing him. “He’s dead because of allegations made — in my opinion and I know this to be true — against Mr. Bolling.”

In a statement to the Times’ Emily Steel, Bolling said “I believe it is beyond inappropriate for anyone to bring in the tragic death of my son Eric Chase Bolling.”

“Just as Bill O’Reilly had wanted to shield his children from the allegations against him, I hope he will honor my request and avoid any future mentions of my son,” he continued. “My parting from Fox News was in no way connected to the tragic news of my son’s passing.”

The New York Times reported Saturday that O’Reilly had reached a $32 million settlement with a former Fox News analyst, Lis Wiehl, who made allegations against him including, in the Times’ words, “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her.”

O’Reilly told the Times that the settlement was meant to protect his children from the intense media scrutiny aimed at him.

And he charged on Monday that the Times had published “a hit job to get me out of the marketplace.”

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The Department of Education on Oct. 2 rescinded 72 policy guidance documents related to students with disabilities, some decades old, saying they were “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective.”

The Washington Post reported on the rescinded guidance documents on Saturday, noting that the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services had published a list of the 72 guidelines the previous day.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told TPM Monday that “[s]tudents with disabilities and their advocates will see no impact on services provided.” The spokesperson also provided a list of the rescinded guidelines that included the reason for each rescission (see below).

The Post reported the change was part of President Donald Trump’s charge to executive agencies in February “to lower regulatory burdens on the American people by implementing and enforcing regulatory reform.”

The documents clarified students’ rights under two laws, according to the Post: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Disability Scoop reported that such guidance documents are “typically used by the Education Department to clarify how existing laws or regulations should be implemented in schools.”

In a statement to TPM, Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill said “There are no policy implications to these rescissions,” adding: “Students with disabilities and their advocates will see no impact on services provided.”

One of the more recent guidance documents rescinded on Oct. 2 clarified in 2012 that so-called “least restrictive environment” (LRE) requirements applied to pre-school students, as well.

LRE, codified in the Individuals with Disabilities Act, states that students with disabilities ought to be placed in the classroom setting that best meets their needs. The law aims to keep disabled students in classes with the general student population, including by utilizing supplementary aides and services.

The Department of Education said Tuesday that the 2012 “Dear Colleague” letter had been superseded by a more recent one, from 2016.

The Post reported Saturday that disability rights advocates were still analyzing the potential impact of the rescinded documents.

See the Department of Education’s stated “Reason for Rescinding” each of the 72 guidance documents below, in the rightmost column.

This post has been updated.

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Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) said Monday that maintaining the top marginal tax rate for Americans earning $1,000,000 or more yearly would be “class warfare.”

In an interview, CNN “New Day” co-host John Berman asked Russell about a report from Axios, which did not cite its sources, that Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee were considering cutting the top marginal rate for individuals earning between $418,000 and $999,999, but keeping the existing rate for those earning more than that.

“I don’t think we ought to continue to divide our country into class warfare,” Russell said of the proposal. “One of the sad things since leaving the military and coming to Congress is to see how we have divided our nation on almost every level: socioeconomic, gender, race, and now we’re going to divide on class and divide on wealth? When is it that we unite on things that we actually could agree on?”

Co-host Poppy Harlow pressed: “How is it class warfare to ask whether or not Americans making over $1 million a year, who now pay nearly 40 percent in income tax, should continue to pay that?” she asked. “How is that class warfare in any way? You’re an elected representative who will have to vote on this thing, so? Which way would you go?”

Currently, the top marginal tax rate is only applied to income above $418,400 yearly. Below that level, every American’s income is taxed at lower and lower rates.

Russell said he wasn’t a millionaire; “having been a soldier most of my life, I never accumulated that kind of wealth.”

But the congressman said wealthy people — “or even small businesses or farms or ranches that might create that sort of wealth” — end up paying “an inordinate amount of taxes that people never see when you add excise taxes, corporate taxes, add individual income.”

The White House’s preferred tax proposal would slash corporate tax rates, as well as a slate of other taxes, many of which disproportionately affect the wealthy. President Donald Trump has said he would not personally benefit from his tax proposal; though it’s impossible to know without Trump’s current tax records, what is known about Trump’s finances suggests he and his family would benefit handsomely from the plan.

“It’s easy to throw rocks at somebody simply because they have money,” Russell continued Monday. “And that’s what I’m trying to address. We don’t need to create this class warfare of, ‘You have, and I don’t, therefore I’m going to punish you, and use the government as the punishment tool.’ We’re better as a country than that. And we want a country that creates innovation and creates hope, so that somebody growing up in poverty can be successful, could be wealthy, if they invent an idea and they take it all the way to success.”

“Why do we have to continue to divide our country along these lines?” he asked in conclusion. “It’s a mystery to me.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Friday pushed back against a statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that it would be “highly inappropriate” for a reporter to “get into a debate with a four-star Marine general.”

The general to whom she was referring is retired: White House chief of staff John Kelly. But generals and chiefs of staff alike are routinely subject to journalists’ questions in the United States.

After the briefing, a reporter asked Graham about Sanders’ comment.

The White House press secretary today said it was highly inappropriate to get in a debate with a four-star general, do you agree with that?”

“No, not in America,” Graham said.

The reporter asked Sanders if Kelly would be willing to discuss an inaccurate statement he made while attacking Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Kelly had accused Wilson of bragging about securing funding for an FBI building in Miramar, Florida in 2015. That did not happen.

Kelly’s other attack against Wilson came in response to her discussing the content of a phone call between President Donald Trump and the grieving widow of Sgt. La David Johnson on Tuesday. Wilson was in the car with the widow, Myeshia Johnson, when Trump called, and Johnson answered the call on speakerphone. Trump had previously, incorrectly, claimed to have called “every” family of a fallen member of the military during his time in office.

Graham said of the controversy: “I just think a member of Congress should have some discipline, and so should the President.”

“I don’t know Congresswoman Wilson, I’ve never met her,” he continued. “I know she’s not a big fan of the President. And to her credit, she was in the car with the family. But I think she started something that was really — I would never do that.”

Wilson had told members of the media after listening to Trump’s call with Johnson that Trump did not mentioned La David Johnson by name, referring to the fallen soldier as “your guy” instead. And, Wilson said, Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

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The White House on Friday told a journalist who asked about errors chief of staff John Kelly made Thursday that it would be “highly inappropriate” to “get into a debate with a four-star Marine general.”

The militaristic language, used to refer to the civilian position in the White House occupied by the retired Marine general, came when the reporter pointed out that Kelly had inaccurately accused a congresswoman of claiming credit for securing funding for an FBI building in Miramar, Florida in 2015.

As video published Friday by the Sun Sentinel showed, the congresswoman, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), never claimed to have secured funding for the building. She did mention during her speech that she had led a congressional effort to name the building after two fallen FBI officials.

Sanders repeated a misleading statement regarding Kelly’s remarks in the press briefing Friday.

“As we say in the South, all hat, no cattle,” she added, a statement that could allude to the fact that Rep. Wilson is known to wear colorful hats.

The reporter pointed out that Kelly’s statement Thursday was misleading: Wilson didn’t discuss the building’s funding in her speech in 2015.

“She also had quite a few comments that day that weren’t part of that speech and weren’t part of that video that were also witnessed by many people that were there,” Sanders said, referring to “what Gen. Kelly referenced yesterday.”

The reporter pressed: Would Kelly respond to reporting on his inaccurate statement?

“I think he’s addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday,” Sanders said.

“He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money,” the reporter countered.

“If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that’s up to you,” Sanders said. “But I think that, if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Responding to TPM’s questions about the statement Friday, Sanders said that “Of course everyone can be questioned.”

She added, referring to the journalist who asked about Kelly’s factually incorrect attack on a Democratic congresswoman: “[A]fter witnessing General Kelly’s heartfelt and somber account we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes is not appropriate.”

The press secretary added later in the press conference, responding separately to a question about a speech made by former President George W. Bush on Thursday: “I think if anybody is pushing a lot of fabricated things right now, I think most of that would be coming from the news media.”

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The White House on Friday stood behind its chief of staff, despite video showing definitively that he misspoke when he attacked a Democratic congresswoman on Thursday.

Though John Kelly originally attacked Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) on Thursday for bragging about securing funding for an FBI building at a dedication ceremony in 2015, video published by the Sun Sentinel Friday of that 2015 event shows that Wilson did no such thing. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a statement to TPM, glossed over Kelly’s inaccuracies.

“Gen. Kelly said he was ‘stunned’ that Rep. Wilson made comments at a building dedication honoring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former President Obama on legislation,” Sanders said in a statement.

But that’s not an accurate summary of the chief of staff’s statement. Kelly said he was “stunned” that Wilson had spoken about securing the building’s funding. In reality, she had only briefly mentioned her efforts to pass legislation to have the building named after two fallen FBI officers. And, secondly, Wilson made no mention of lobbying Obama in her 2015 speech, according to the Sentinel’s video. 

Neither Sanders nor another White House spokesperson responded to TPM’s questions about the details it mischaracterized in recounting Kelly’s attack.

Sanders’ statement continued: “As Gen. Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel.”

“Empty barrel” is what Kelly called Wilson for her sharing with the media that President Donald Trump did not mention Sgt. Johnson’s name in the call with his widow, according to Wilson, and that he had told her that Johnson knew what he signed up for.”

Kelly on Thursday said that Wilson, in her 2015 speech, “stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that 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 — the $20 million — to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson batted away rumors of his imminent departure in an interview with the Wall Street Journal Thursday, but acknowledged his differences with President Donald Trump.

“I see those differences in how we think,” Tillerson told the Journal. “Most of the things he would do would be done on very short time frames. Everything I spent my life doing was done on 10- to 20-year time frames, so I am quite comfortable thinking in those terms.”

“Look, I’m my own person, I’m a serious person,” he added separately. “And I’m not of any use to the President if I’m not that. If I try to be anything other than that, I’m no use to him.”

One solution, Tillerson told the paper, had been “[d]elivering the incremental wins.”

He added: “Incremental progress is taking you toward the ultimate objective, which is, as I say is eight, 10 years down the road.”

Tillerson held a press conference on Oct. 4 to refute rumors of his clashes with Trump. NBC News had reported that Tillerson called Trump a “moron” in a meeting with senior national security officials over the summer after Trump had suggested a dramatic increase in the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

Tillerson hasn’t specifically denied that story, but he did say in the press conference that “my commitment to the success of our President” was a strong as the day he started.

He maintained a similar attitude in his interview Thursday: “Who in the world is telling you that stuff?” he asked the Journal, referring to rumors of his resignation.

Trump has largely ignored the secretary of state’s role as the country’s lead diplomat, leaning more heavily on the military staff that surrounds him in both national security capacities and as senior White House officials, including his chief of staff, John Kelly. Long-term State Department staffers have reportedly complained of Trump’s sidelining of the department.

Tillerson told the Journal he would stay in the job “as long as the President thinks I’m useful.”

The Journal’s reporters, Michael C. Bender and Felicia Schwartz, captured what was perhaps a telling moment:

Asked Thursday if he believed Mr. Trump should be re-elected, Mr. Tillerson paused for a beat, then said, “Well, of course.”

“I mean, I don’t think about it, quite frankly, right now,” he said. “We’ve got these things we’re dealing with, but yeah.”

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Fox News on Thursday retracted a story about a man claiming to have been a Navy SEAL and veteran of the Vietnam War — claims which were proven to be false.

On Oct. 8, Fox News aired a story about John Garofalo, a glass artist and supposedly decorated retired Navy SEAL who’d created a giant presidential seal made of glass as a gift to President Donald Trump, according to the Washington Post, who flagged the story Friday morning.

“Garofalo is used to working under pressure,” Fox News’ Bryan Llenas had said in a voice over in the original segment. “The Vietnam War veteran served seven years as a member of the nation’s first Navy SEAL team. He was awarded 22 commendations, including two Purple Hearts.”

He called Garofalo a hero in an interview.

“I don’t like to hear that,” Garofalo responded, wiping tears from his eyes. “Heroes are the ones that didn’t come home.”

The retraction came 11 days later.

“Garofalo claimed he was a Vietnam veteran, a member of the first U.S. Navy SEAL team, and a decorated war hero who was awarded two Purple Hearts,” the network said in a post on its website. “Unfortunately, all of Garofalo’s claims turned out to be untrue.”

Llenas addressed his story’s inaccuracies on air Friday:

According to Navy Times, Fox News’ video had been viewed more than 1.5 million times by Thursday. It has since appeared to have been removed.

Viewers took note immediately, according to Navy Times: Don Shipley, a retired SEAL himself who has experience revealing cases of stolen valor, told the publication that he notified the Fox News reporter the day after the story ran about Garofalo’s phony claims. He posted a short video on Oct. 9 saying Garofalo was “a total phony.”

Garofalo is a veteran of the Navy, but he did not serve in Vietnam, nor is not a retired SEAL.

“It got bigger and bigger,” Garofalo told Navy Times. “What I did I‘m ashamed of, and I didn’t mean to cause so much disgrace to the SEALs.”

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In an impromptu appearance at a White House press briefing Thursday, White House chief of staff John Kelly defended President Donald Trump and attacked Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who he said “listened in” to the President’s call to a grieving military wife. Read the White House’s transcript of the full briefing below:

MS. SANDERS: Catch you off guard when we’re on time. Good afternoon.

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 this process.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to share a letter to the President from the podium, and I have one today that I think you’ll all enjoy.

This one is from Mackenzie of Dalton, Georgia. Mackenzie is seven years old and is in the second grade. And she wrote:

“Dear President Trump, I’m writing to tell you how much I appreciate all you’re doing. I think you’re an awesome President. In fact, I voted for you in my school election. My mom is bringing me to D.C. on spring break this year, and I’m very excited. I’ve never been there before, and I can’t wait to see everything.

I am most excited to see the White House. My mom said we have to write someone to ask to come in, and I hope we can. I know you’re a busy man, but if you could meet me, or at least see your office, it would make my day. And I would love to shake your hand.

You’re our leader, a hero, and a great man, and I can’t wait to see you and help make America great again. Sincerely, Mackenzie, you’re biggest fan.

P.S. If you would like, I can bring something to eat when I come. I’ve always heard food brings people together.”

Well, Mackenzie, I had the opportunity to share your letter with the President earlier today, and he said he would love for you to come and visit us here at the White House during spring break. I’ll give you a tour personally, and if the President is here, he’d love to meet you as well.

Finally, you’re very right about food bringing people together, and so the press staff would like to invite you to have lunch here in the Navy Mess downstairs in the West Wing. We look very much forward to your visit and hope that you’ll be in touch so that we can make sure that that happens.

On a more serious note, we’ve had a lot of questions come in, and I certainly addressed quite a few of them yesterday, and thought today it might be more appropriate to have the Chief of Staff address some of those questions specific to outreach to Gold Star families. He’ll address questions on that topic, and if you have other questions throughout the day, the press staff will be here and happy to answer those after the briefing later this afternoon.

Thanks, guys.

GENERAL KELLY: Well, thanks a lot. And it is a more serious note, so I just wanted to perhaps make more of a statement than an — give more of an explanation in what amounts to be a traditional press interaction.

Most Americans don’t know what happens when we lose one of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, our Coast Guardsmen in combat. So let me tell you what happens:

Their buddies wrap them up in whatever passes as a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a routine, and sends them home. Their first stop along the way is when they’re packed in ice, typically at the airhead. And then they’re flown to, usually, Europe where they’re then packed in ice again and flown to Dover Air Force Base, where Dover takes care of the remains, embalms them, meticulously dresses them in their uniform with the medals that they’ve earned, the emblems of their service, and then puts them on another airplane linked up with a casualty officer escort that takes them home.

A very, very good movie to watch, if you haven’t ever seen it, is “Taking Chance,” where this is done in a movie — HBO setting. Chance Phelps was killed under my command right next to me, and it’s worth seeing that if you’ve never seen it.

So that’s the process. While that’s 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; typically a mom and dad will answer, a wife. And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places; if the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until — well, for a long, long time, even after the internment. So that’s what happens.

Who are these young men and women? They are the best 1 percent this country produces. Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best this country produces, and they volunteer to protect our country when there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that’s all right.

Who writes letters to the families? Typically, the company commander — in my case, as a Marine — the company commander, battalion commander, regimental commander, division commander, Secretary of Defense, typically the service chief, commandant of the Marine Corps, and the President typically writes a letter.

Typically, the only phone calls a family receives are the most important phone calls they could imagine, and that is from their buddies. In my case, hours 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 mattered.

And yeah, the letters count, to a degree, but there’s not much that really can take the edge off what a family member is going through.

So some Presidents have elected to call. All Presidents, I believe, have elected to send letters. If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you could imagine. There’s no perfect way to make that phone call.

When I took this job and talked to President Trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was he not do it because it’s not the phone call that parents, family members are looking forward to. It’s nice to do, in my opinion, in any event.

He asked me about previous Presidents, and I said, I can tell you that President Obama, who was my Commander-in-Chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family. That was not a criticism. That was just to simply say, I don’t believe President Obama called. That’s not a negative thing. I don’t believe President Bush called in all cases. I don’t believe any President, particularly when the casualty rates are very, very high — that Presidents call. But I believe they all write.

So when I gave that explanation to our President three days ago, he elected to make phone calls in the cases of four young men who we lost in Niger at the earlier part of this month. But then he said, how do you make these calls? If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call. I think he very bravely does make those calls.

The call in question that he made yesterday — or day before yesterday now — were to four family members, the four fallen. And remember, there’s a next-of-kin designated by the individual. If he’s married, that’s typically the spouse. If he’s not married, that’s typically the parents unless the parents are divorced, and then he selects one of them. If he didn’t get along with his parents, he’ll select a sibling. But the point is, the phone call is made to the next-of-kin only if the next-of-kin agrees to take the phone call. Sometimes they don’t.

So a pre-call is made: The President of the United States or the commandant of the Marine Corps, or someone would like to call, will you accept the call? And typically, they all accept the call.

So he called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could. And he said to me, what do I say? I said to him, sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.

Well, let me tell you what I told him. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me — because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. And when he died, in the four cases we’re talking about, Niger, and my son’s case in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth: his friends.

That’s what the President tried to say to four families the other day. I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and broken-hearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the President of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion — that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted. There’s no reason to enlist; he enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken.

That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted.

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.

Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought — the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.

And 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 thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this Earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery. I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.

I’ll end with this: In October — April, rather, of 2015, I was still on active duty, and I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 — a guy by the name of Grogan and Duke. Grogan almost retired, 53 years old; Duke, I think less than a year on the job. Anyways, they got in a gunfight and they were killed. Three other FBI agents were there, were wounded, and now retired. So we go down — Jim Comey gave an absolutely brilliant memorial speech to those fallen men and to all of the men and women of the FBI who serve our country so well, and law enforcement so well.

There were family members there. Some of the children that were there were three or four years old when their dads were killed on that street in Miami-Dade. Three of the men that survived the fight were there, and gave a rendition of how brave those men were and how they gave their lives.

And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that 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 — the $20 million — to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

But, you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, okay, fine.

So I still hope, as you write your stories, and I appeal to America, that let’s not let this maybe last thing that’s held sacred in our society — a young man, young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country — let’s try to somehow keep that sacred. But it eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.

So I’m willing to take a question or two on this topic. Let me ask you this: Is anyone here a Gold Star parent or sibling? Does anyone here know a Gold Star parent or sibling?

Okay, you get the question.

Q Well, thank you, General Kelly. First of all, we have a great deal of respect — Semper Fi — for everything that you’ve ever done. But if we could take this a bit further. Why were they in Niger? We were told they weren’t in armored vehicles and there was no air cover. So what are the specifics about this particular incident? And why were we there? And why are we there?

GENERAL KELLY: Well, I would start by saying there is an investigation. Let me back up and say, the fact of the matter is, young men and women that wear our uniform are deployed around the world and there are tens of thousands, near the DMZ in North Korea [sic], in Okinawa, waiting to go — in South Korea — in Okinawa, ready to go. All over the United States, training, ready to go. They’re all over Latin America. Down there, they do mostly drug and addiction, working with our partners — our great partners — the Colombians, the Central Americans, the Mexicans.

You know, there’s thousands. My own son, right now, back in the fight for his fifth tour against ISIS. There’s thousands of them in Europe acting as a deterrent. And they’re throughout Africa. And they’re doing the nation’s work there, and not making a lot of money, by the way, doing it. They love what they do.

So why were they there? They’re there working with partners, local — all across Africa — in this case, Niger — working with partners, teaching them how to be better soldiers; teaching them how to respect human rights; teaching them how to fight ISIS so that we don’t have to send our soldiers and Marines there in their thousands. That’s what they were doing there.

Now, there is an investigation. There’s always an — unless it’s a very, very conventional death in a conventional war, there’s always an investigation. Of course, that operation is conducted by AFRICOM that, of course, works directly for the Secretary of Defense.

There is a — and I talked to Jim Mattis this morning. I think he made statements this afternoon. There’s an investigation ongoing. An investigation doesn’t mean anything was wrong. An investigation doesn’t mean people’s heads are going to roll. The fact is they need to find out what happened and why it happened.

But at the end of the day, ladies and gentlemen, you have to understand that these young people — sometimes old guys — put on the uniform, go to where we send them to protect our country. Sometimes they go in large numbers to invade Iraq and invade Afghanistan. Sometimes they’re working in small units, working with our partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America, helping them be better.

But at the end of the day, they’re helping those partners be better at fighting ISIS in North Africa to protect our country so that we don’t have to send large numbers of troops.

Any other — someone who knows a Gold Star fallen person.


Q General, thank you for being here today and thank you for your service and for your family’s sacrifice. There has been some talk about the timetable of the release of the statement about the — I think at that point it was three soldiers who were killed in Niger. Can you walk us through the timetable of the release of that information? And what part did the fact that a beacon was pinging during that time have to do with the release of the statement? And were you concerned that divulging information early might jeopardize the soldiers’ attempt to be (inaudible)?

GENERAL KELLY: First of all, that’s a — you know, we are at the highest level of the U.S. government. The people that will answer those questions will be the people at the other end of the military pyramid.

I’m sure the Special Forces group is conducting it. I know they’re conducting an investigation. That investigation, of course, under the auspices of AFRICOM, ultimately will go to the Pentagon. I’ve read the same stories you have. I actually know a lot more than I’m letting on, but I’m 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 — I mean, what the hell is my son doing back in the fight? He’s back in the fight because — working with Iraqi soldiers who are infinitely better than they were a few years ago to take ISIS on directly so that we don’t have to do it. Small numbers of Marines where he is working alongside those guys. That’s why they’re out there, whether it’s Niger, Iraq, or whatever. We don’t want to send tens of thousands of American soldiers and Marines, in particular, to go fight.

I’ll take one more, but it’s got to be from someone who knows — all right.

Q General, when you talk about Niger, sir, what does your intelligence tell you about the Russian connection with them? And the stories that are coming out now, they’re —

GENERAL KELLY: I have no knowledge of any Russian connection, but I was not, in my position, to know that. That’s a question for NORTHCOM or for — not NORTHCOM — for AFRICOM or DOD.

Thanks very much, everybody.

As I walk off the stage, understand there’s tens of thousands of American kids, mostly, doing their nation’s bidding all around the world. They don’t have to be in uniform. You know, when I was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran — World War II, Korea, and there was the draft. These young people today, they don’t do it for any other reason than their selfless — sense of selfless devotion to this great nation.

We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.

And I do appreciate your time. Take care.

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