Kelly's voice grew thin at points during an extraordinary and emotional briefing at the White House.
Earlier this week, the aunt of Sergeant La David Johnson said President Trump had shown "disrespect" to the soldier's loved ones as he telephoned them to extend condolences as they drove to a Miami airport to receive his body.
White House chief of staff John Kelly blasted Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida for telling the press about the details of President Donald Trump's call with a Gold Star widow.
That led Trump to say he had proof Wilson "fabricated" her account of a call that he'd made to Myeshia. "That's what the President tried to say to the four families the other day".
Kelly also described how families are notified when a service member is killed, saying an officer is dispatched to the family's home early in the morning, waits for the first light to come on and then knocks on the door to deliver the devastating news. The president, she told CNN, is a "sick man" with "no sympathy", while also claiming he did not even know the late soldier's name because he referred to him as "her guy" while speaking with Mrs. Johnson. "And I thought at least that was sacred".
Kelly said it prompted him to leave the White House to go to Arlington National Cemetery and "go walk among the finest men and women on this earth".
But while Kelly expressed his anger at the politicization of the death of American soldiers, he also chose to ignore Trump's role in stoking it in the first place. "I believe they all write", he said. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent.
"I said to him, "Sir there's nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families".
Kelly did say that he believed phone calls and even letters from U.S. presidents could not "lighten the burden on these families" and said he advised Trump against the phone calls.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article indicated Trump had called the fallen soldier's mother.
"I didn't hear the whole phone call, but I did hear him say, 'I'm sure he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts, '" she recalled, sparking another round of controversy. "I did not say what she said". He knew what the possibilities were because we were at war. And you can always find them.
She added that Trump "was nearly like joking" and that his comment was "absolutely insane, unnecessary".