Washington • Rep. Chris Stewart, a former Air Force major, defended President Donald Trump’s call to the widow of a fallen soldier in which he reportedly said her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

Stewart, who served 14 years in the military, said Friday that Trump didn’t say anything wrong in the call to the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was among four soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month. Trump was criticized for not commenting on the deaths for two weeks.

Trump upset the widow, Myeshia Johnson, according to the soldier’s mother and a Florida congresswoman, and sparked outrage this week when the president claimed his comment was “fabricated.”

Stewart said in an interview it was unfortunate that Gold Star families had been drug into a political fight.

President Trump’s just clear intention was to offer sympathy and condolences to this family and when he says that [the soldier] knew what he was getting into, that is the kindest, complimentary thing he could say,” Stewart said. “This individual knew there was danger, he knew that he was putting his life on the line and yet he was still willing to do it. The president’s intention was to thank him for that knowing service.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, whose own son was killed in the line of duty, said Thursday that Trump’s intention was to thank the widow for her husband’s service and that it’s not an easy call.

If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you could imagine,” Kelly said. “There’s no perfect way to make that phone call.”

Stewart, the only member of Utah’s congressional delegation with active military experience, said he is bothered the issue has been “manipulated to a political football. It’s completely inappropriate.”