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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump touched a nerve with former White House officials after saying on Monday that previous presidents did not make phone calls to the families of fallen service members.Trump was responding to a question about why he has not yet made remarks about the four special operations servicemen killed in Niger almost two weeks ago. Trump, speaking from the Rose Garden in a surprise press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he plans on contacting the families soon.“If you look at President [Barack] Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I am able to do it,” said Trump. “They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call. I'm going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I'm going to be calling them.”Trump later walked back the comments accusing his predecessors of not calling families of people killed in combat. “I don't know if he did. No, no, no,” said Trump. “I was -- I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't. They write letters.”But former White House administration officials were riled by the accusation."President Trump’s claim is unequivocally wrong," a former Obama official said in a statement to ABC News. "President Obama engaged families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through calls, letters, visits to Section 60 at Arlington, visits to Walter Reed, visits to Dover, and regular meetings with Gold Star Families at the White House and across the country."“President Bush wrote all the families of the fallen, and called and/or met privately with hundreds if not thousands,” a spokesperson to former President George W. Bush told ABC News.An aide to President Bill Clinton also called the claim false. "He did call the families of fallen soldiers while in office," the official told ABC News.Alyssa Mastromonaco, former White House deputy chief of staff and a longtime scheduler for Obama, told ABC News, “It is unconscionable that a president would dare to ever portray another as unpatriotic, which is essentially what he was doing.”Other Obama officials took to Twitter to respond, including former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes:
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  • Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., slammed "half-baked, spurious nationalism" in an impassioned speech while accepting the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Monday evening.McCain, who was presented with the medal by former Vice President Joe Biden, began by saying he was humbled by the award before eventually lashing out at the nationalism that has swept the U.S. and warning against leaving the nation's place of prominence in the international community."To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history," McCain said, to applause."We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," he continued. "... We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did."He added: "We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to."In introducing McCain, Biden praised his "courage and loyalty.""I can think of no better description for the man we’re honoring tonight," Biden said.McCain revealed in July that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. He has clashed with President Donald Trump over Republicans' repeated attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, including most recently when he said he could not "in good conscience" vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill. In response, Trump called McCain's opposition to the bill "terrible, honestly terrible."
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  • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a wide-ranging, impromptu press conference from the White House Rose Garden Monday, President Donald Trump -- joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- addressed a number of his administration's current goals as well as ongoing controversies.For over 30 minutes, Trump touched on the rumors of his rocky relationship with fellow Republicans, his action to halt Obamacare subsidy payments, the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the nation's opioid epidemic, his former rival Hillary Clinton, the NFL national anthem protests and the ambush on U.S. soldiers in Niger, among other issues.Trump and McConnell ate lunch together with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House earlier in the day, but the press conference was not listed on his daily schedule.Here are some of the key moments from the appearance:Trump-McConnell relationshipTrump claimed that his relationship with McConnell is "outstanding," a refutation of reports ranging back to the summer that documented growing frustrations between the two powerful Republicans.After first discussing his administration's current efforts at tax reform, the president suddenly pivoted to describe his rapport with the senator."My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding [and] has been outstanding." Trump said.McConnell later echoed Trump's sentiment and directly pushed back on the rumors of discord."I think what the president and I would both like to say to you today, contrary to what some of you may have reported, we are together totally on this agenda to move America forward," he said.Opioid national emergency, investigation into Rep. MarinoTrump said that next week, his administration plans on declaring a national emergency to combat the opioid epidemic.“We're going to be doing that next week,” Trump said. “It's a very important step, and to get to that step a lot of work has to be done and it's time consuming work.”Trump said he watched a special investigation by “60 Minutes” and the Washington Post that examined Congress’ role in the exacerbating the opioid crisis. The investigation pointed a finger at Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., as spearheadeding efforts to pass a bill that makes it harder for the Drug Enforcement Agency to halt suspicious shipments of drugs. Marino is currently the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy. After viewing the report, Trump says he will be reconsidering his nomination.“He was a very early supporter of mine from the great state of Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “He's a great guy. I'll look at the report and take it very seriously because we will have a major announcement probably next week on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem and I want to get that absolutely right.”“This country, and frankly the world, has a drug problem,” Trump added. “The world has a drug problem and we have it and we'll do something about it and I'll have a major announcement on the drug problem next week. We'll be looking into Tom.”Russia investigationAs Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his nearly five-month-long investigation into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election, Trump shared his impatience with the inquiry and continued to downplay the notion of interference."I'd like to see it end," Trump said of the investigation. "The whole Russian thing was an excuse for the Democrats losing the election."In January, a report by the U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an effort to undermine the U.S. election. Trump has, at times, alternated between accepting that conclusion, suggesting that other parties could have taken part in the interference, and calling the situation a "hoax." He strongly denied Monday that his campaign was in any way connected to the situation."There has been absolutely no collusion
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As a candidate for president, Donald Trump was open about his displeasure of then-President Obama's deal to retrieve Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Afghanistan after his 2009 disappearance and capture by the Taliban.
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said he understands Steve Bannon's frustrations and added that the Republican Party is "not getting the job done" when it comes to their legislative agenda.
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  • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley dismissed rumors of friction between her and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during an appearance on This Week Sunday.Haley was asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos about a Politico report that tensions between Haley and Tillerson are reaching "World War III" proportions."That's so dramatic," Haley said. "That's so ridiculous."She added, "Sometimes Secretary Tillerson and I have different opinions, but when we come to the [National Security Council], everybody has different opinions.""At the end of the day, we present the president with all of the facts, we let him make decisions, and we all as a team go out and support that decision,” the U.N. ambassador said. “My relationship with Secretary Tillerson or [Defense Secretary] Mattis or anyone else, it's all a great relationship because we are all looking out for the best interests of America."Haley also brushed off a charge by Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that President Trump is undermining Tillerson's authority on the world stage.“I have seen the president and Secretary Tillerson work together," Haley said. "They work very well together. They talk through things and then they manage it properly. If there's an issue, I haven't heard about it."
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