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Niger is Trump’s Benghazi, says congresswoman Frederica Wilson

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Niger is Trump’s Benghazi, says congresswoman Frederica Wilson” was written by Jon Swaine, for theguardian.com on Sunday 22nd October 2017 20.53 UTC

The US congresswoman Frederica Wilson has demanded an apology from Donald Trump’s White House for false statements made about her by senior officials, as the president continued to attack the Florida Democrat.

Wilson on Sunday declared that the deadly ambush of US forces in Niger at the heart of their dispute was Trump’s equivalent of the deadly 2011 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, over which Republicans in Congress pursued Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when the attack happened.

Senators from both parties urged the administration to release more information about the Niger incident, which happened on 4 October and in which four Americans were killed.

Wilson said John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, had smeared her after she criticised Trump’s handling of a condolence call to the family of one of the soldiers killed in the ambush.

“General Kelly owes the nation an apology because when he lied about me, he lied to the American public,” Wilson said on Twitter.

Kelly on Thursday falsely accused Wilson of using a 2015 speech at the unveiling of a new FBI building in Florida to boast about securing federal money for her district. Video footage of the speech showed Wilson had in fact praised a bipartisan effort to name the complex after two agents killed on duty.

Instead of acknowledging Kelly’s error, the White House falsely suggested that the video had supported his remarks. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, dismissed Wilson – who is known in Congress for her colourful headwear – as being “all hat, no cattle”.

The quarrel began when Wilson disclosed that Trump had told Sgt La David Johnson’s grieving widow that the green beret “knew what he signed up for” before being killed by insurgents in Niger. Wilson, a friend of Johnson’s family, had been invited to join them to listen to the president’s call.

Trump repeatedly denied making the comment and said he had proof Wilson’s claim was untrue. After Trump failed to produce such proof, Kelly appeared to confirm Wilson’s account of the call in his remarks on Thursday at the White House, even while condemning her for making it public.

Trump on Sunday morning posted his fifth tweet criticising Wilson. “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party, a disaster for Dems,” he wrote. “You watch her in action & vote R!”

The dispute has revived wider concerns about the fatal incident – in which the US soldiers were killed during an attack on their convoy and five Nigerien soldiers also died – and about America’s role in anti-terror efforts in the west African state. Authorities suspect militants affiliated with Islamic State were responsible for the ambush. Johnson was buried in Florida on Saturday.

Conflicting accounts of what led to the attack given by US and Nigerien officials have led members of Congress including John McCain, the Republican chair of the Senate armed services committee, to criticise the Pentagon’s response.

Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, said on Sunday he shared concerns over the contradicting narratives. “At this point we have conflicting stories,” Lankford said on CBS’s Face The Nation. “We want to be able to get the full, accurate story and get it right.”

Lankford’s sentiments were echoed by Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, and Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York.

“I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger,” Graham said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is an endless war without boundaries and no limitation on time and geography … You’ve got to tell us more and [McCain] is right to say that.”

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said he was similarly unaware. Schumer said information being provided by the Trump administration was “not adequate” and should be re-examined.

“We need to look at this carefully,” Schumer told NBC. “This is a brave new world. There are no set battle plans.”

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