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Donald Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his claim that Barack Obama did not routinely call the families of servicemen and women killed in battle. He also warned John McCain, a decorated war hero with whom he has clashed before, that he might “fight back” after the senator said America’s “leadership and ideals are absent”.

Regarding Obama’s contacts with the families of fallen troops, Trump directed inquiries to his chief of staff. John Kelly’s son, like the retired general a US marine, died in Afghanistan in 2010.

“I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died,” Trump told Brian Kilmeade of Fox News Radio. “As far as other representatives, I don’t know. You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?”

A White House official told the Associated Press Obama did not call Kelly. The official did not immediately respond to questions about whether the former president reached out in another fashion.

The AP also reported, however, that White House visitor records showed Kelly attended a breakfast Obama hosted for Gold Star families six months after his son died. A person familiar with the breakfast – speaking on condition of anonymity because the event was private – said the Kelly family sat at Michelle Obama’s table.

Obama aides said it was difficult to determine if he had also called Kelly, and when. But former Obama spokesman Ned Price reacted angrily to Trump’s comments.

“Kelly, a man of honor & decency, should stop this inane cruelty,” Price tweeted. “He saw up-close just how – & how much – Obama cared for the fallen’s families.”

Trump first made the claim in a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, when he was asked why he had not yet commented publicly about four special forces soldiers who were killed in Niger last week.

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