After a heated back-and forth with President Trump, threats made on the life of Rep. Frederica Wilson are preventing her from voting in Congress.
COMPILED FROM WIRE REPORTS
WASHINGTON – Embroiled in a verbal fight with the White House over a condolence call President Donald Trump made to the widow of a slain Army sergeant, South Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was in the national spotlight for days last week.
Wilson said Trump was “disrespectful” to Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, by saying her husband had known what he was getting into by joining the Army, and by calling him “your guy” instead of using his name.
Wilson was in the car consoling Johnson’s family as they traveled to Miami International Airport to pick up his casket when Trump called. Johnson’s aunt also said the family took that remark to be disrespectful.
“There’s nothing to misinterpret,” Wilson said. “He said what he said, I just don’t agree with it. I just don’t think that’s what you should say to grieving families.”
Trump, Kelly respond
Trump then unloaded on Wilson on Twitter.
“The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!” Trump tweeted.
White House chief of staff John Kelly then held a rare news conference where he spent 20 minutes criticizing Wilson without using her name and incorrectly recounting a 2015 FBI dedication ceremony speech that Wilson gave in Miramar, Fla.
Kelly blasted Wilson without saying her name, just calling her the congresswoman. At one point, he called her a “selfish member of Congress.”
“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation,” he said. “I would have thought that was sacred.”
‘The most noise’
He referred to Wilson as an “empty barrel.”
“A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there … 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,” Kelly said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Kelly.
“If you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you’re an empty barrel,” she said in a statement.
But video evidence showed that Kelly was wrong. But Wilson never boasted about securing the funds. Video of the nine-minute speech posted online by the South Florida Sun Sentinel proved Kelly wrong.
The tape shows Wilson thanking then-FBI Director James Comey and other agents and talking about the dangers of the job.
She also applauds her own efforts to speed along legislation dedicating the building in honor of Agents Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, killed during a 1986 shootout with bank robbers south of Miami.
She said that her effort and that of other lawmakers “speaks to the respect that our Congress has for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day.”
A ‘personal’ issue
Wilson’s office declined to comment on Kelly’s remarks, referring to a Wednesday statement.
“This is personal for me, not political,” Wilson said. “Sgt. Johnson was a member of my community and of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project that I founded to help boys of color build successful futures.
“He was killed while on a mission to provide training and security assistance to West African armed forces battling vicious insurgents like Boko Haram, the group whose defeat I’ve been fighting for since it abducted nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls more than three years ago.”
Kelly has yet to apologize for his remarks, and Sanders said that it’s “highly inappropriate” to debate Kelly, a former four-star general.
“I feel sorry for Gen. Kelly,” Wilson told CNN. “He has my sympathy for the loss of his son. But he can’t just go on TV and lie on me.”
Days later, one racist threat against Wilson that surfaced on a Facebook account attributed to Tom Keevers, a 54-year-old Chicago-area man, is being investigated by police.
“Need ten good men to help carry out a lynching,” the post read. “Must have own horse and saddle. Rope will be provided. This congresswomen (sic) is a disgusting pig. Someone should take their boot to her face.”
Keevers told the Chicago Tribune newspaper that an anonymous “meme-maker” put words in his mouth and that he and his family are now getting death threats.
Threat goes viral
Screen grabs of a post purportedly made on Keevers’ Facebook page went viral over the weekend after they were shared nearly 4,000 times on Twitter. But Keevers said that local police promised him there was “nothing for me to worry about.
“People threaten Donald Trump all the time and nothing happens,” he said. “I don’t think a lot about what I write on Facebook.”
A source close to Wilson confirmed that the Florida Democrat was not in Washington this week due to ongoing threats.
Congressional vote tallies show that Wilson last voted Oct. 12, before the House adjourned for a weeklong break. She has missed 19 votes between Monday and Wednesday this week.
The source close to Wilson said that there are “some” ongoing investigations into threats on the congresswoman. Threatening a member of Congress is a federal crime that can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.
“Nothing else would keep her from voting,” the source said. Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.
“She’s home,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat. “I have not spoken with her about it, but I’ve heard that she’s received substantial death threats and I think she is doing everything she can to ratchet down and let some of us, including me, take over.”
Hastings said she expected Wilson to return next week.
“Gen. Kelly ought to apologize to Frederica and he should encourage Donald Trump to apologize to Myeshia Johnson,” Hastings said.
“Will they do that? No. Because Donald Trump’s habit is to double down whether he tells a damn lie or not, and he needs to stop the damn lies, not just about Frederica but about an array of individuals.”
Denis Slattery and David Boroff of the New York Daily News, Alex Daugherty and Anita Kumar of the McClatchy Washington Bureau, and Kim Janssen of the Chicago Tribune (TNS) contributed to this report.