In the debut of The Ingraham Angle Monday night, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told host Laura Ingraham that he would "never" apologize to Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) over comments he made in their public feud.
In an interview that touched on a range of subjects, including the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, Ingraham asked the retired general about his dustup with Rep. Wilson. Wilson turned President Trump's private condolence call to a Gold Star widow into a political battle when she accused Trump of being callous in his phrasing. Trump pushed back against the claim, as did Gen. Kelly, who had advised Trump about how to handle the difficult calls. In his defense of Trump, Kelly slammed "empty barrel" Wilson for grandstanding, as he said she had previously done regarding an FBI building named after two slain agents. Kelly said Wilson had boasted about securing funding for the building during a ceremony. Video and transcripts of her speech show that Wilson touted her role not in securing funding but in getting the building named for the agents (see transcript below). Wilson accused Kelly of outfight "lying" about her, suggested that he was being "racist" for calling her an "empty barrel," a term with no racial connotations, and demanded an apology.
When Ingraham pressed Kelly on Monday about his claim that Wilson bragged about raising funds for the building, Kelly defended his statement and made clear that he would "never" apologize to Wilson.
"Wilson, in her speech, did not brag about getting funding, as you indicated in your remarks," said Ingraham, while acknowledging that Wilson clearly used the moment to celebrate her own role in the naming of the building.
Kelly suggested that Wilson was making other claims about her role in the project both before and after her speech, describing it as a "package deal," but saying he didn't "want to get into it."
"Do you feel like you have something to apologize for?" pressed Ingraham.
"No. Never. I'll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments," he said.
Below is a partial transcript of Rep. Wilson's remarks referenced by Gen. Kelly:
Consider this scenario. The brand new federal building that will house the FBI has been built, and the FBI approaches my office. “Congresswoman Wilson, the ribbon-cutting has been scheduled in four short weeks. The dedication is on the government’s calendar and cannot be changed. One problem: the FBI wants to name this gorgeous edifice at the same time in four weeks.” Everyone said, "That’s impossible. It takes at least eight months to a year to complete the process through the House, the Senate, and the president’s office.” I said, “I’m a school principal,” and I said, excuse my French, “Aw hell no. We’re gonna get this done.” Immediately, I went into attack mode. I went to the Speaker, Speaker Boehner, and I said, “Mr. Speaker, I need your help. The FBI needs your help, and our country needs your help. And we have no time to waste.” He went into attack mode and in two days pulled it out of committee, brought it to the floor for a vote. … We all voted and I dashed it over to the Senate, and put our Senators on notice, “Put it on your radar.” Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio, who have representatives here today, they hotlined it to the Senate floor in just two days. And guess what, the president signed it into law this past Tuesday, April 7, 2015 with a BANG, BANG, BANG!
As for his response to the Manafort and Gates indictments, Kelly told Ingraham that as far as he understands it, "all of the activities" they have been indicted for were "long before they ever met Donald Trump or, or had an association with the campaign."
Manafort's 12-count indictment indeed does not mention Trump and mostly involves actions that came or at least began well before 2016. Along with the indictment of the Manafort and his associate, Monday saw news of another former Trump campaign member, former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, who cut a plea deal with the special counsel and whose alleged actions did occur during the 2016 campaign.
Partial transcript via Deadline.