President Donald Trump has come under fire for his "insensitive" choice of words when speaking to the pregnant widow of one of the four US special forces soldiers killed in Niger.

Trump phoned Myeshia Johnson to give his condolences over the death of her husband Sgt. La David Johnson, according to Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Wilson said she was sitting beside the grieving widow when she took the call while they were on their way to Miami International Airport where Johnson's remains were arriving on a commercial flight.

President Trump phoned Myeshia Johnson to give his condolences over the death of her husband Sgt. La David Johnson. Photo / Facebook
President Trump phoned Myeshia Johnson to give his condolences over the death of her husband Sgt. La David Johnson. Photo / Facebook

During the five minute call, Trump is said to have told Johnson that her 25-year-old husband "knew what he signed up for... but when it happens it hurts anyway".

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"Yes, he said it," Wilson told WPLG. "It's so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn't have said it."

Heartbreaking footage later showed Johnson, who is expecting the couple's third baby in January, sobbing as she leaned over her husband's flag-draped coffin.

The couple's six-year-old daughter stood by the coffin with her mother, while their two-year-old son waited in the arms of a relative standing nearby.

Myeshia Johnson, who is expecting the couple's third baby in January, later sobbed as she leaned over her husband's coffin. Photo / Local10.com
Myeshia Johnson, who is expecting the couple's third baby in January, later sobbed as she leaned over her husband's coffin. Photo / Local10.com

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton reacted on Twitter to news of Trump's phone call saying: "Mrs Johnson, I cannot begin to imagine your loss. Your family & all who mourn Sgt. Johnson are in my prayers & those of countless Americans."

Trump called the families of the four US troops who were killed in Niger nearly two weeks ago.

It came a day after he said he would call them at the "appropriate time" when questioned about his public silence.

Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was among the four US troops who were killed in Niger nearly two weeks ago during an ambush.
Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was among the four US troops who were killed in Niger nearly two weeks ago during an ambush.

"President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

"He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family's extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten."

Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson were all killed when militants thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State group ambushed them while they were patrolling in unarmored trucks with Niger troops.

During a White House press conference, Trump indicated that he had held off on calling out of respect for the grieving families - then unloaded on former presidents with an inaccurate claim that his predecessors didn't call families of the fallen.

"So the traditional way if you look at president Obama and other presidents - most of them didn't' make calls," Trump said.

"A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice, so generally I would say that I like to call."

When asked during the press conference to back up his claims about Obama, Trump appeared to try and backpedal.

"I don't know if he did. I was told that he didn't often. A lot of presidents don't, they write letters. I do a combination of both. Sometimes it's a very difficult thing to do but I do a combination of both," he said.

Trump is said to have told Mrs Johnson that her 25-year-old husband
Trump is said to have told Mrs Johnson that her 25-year-old husband "knew what he signed up for... but when it happens it hurts anyway." Photo / Facebook

Trump was heavily criticized for the comments by both Gold Star families and ex-staffers of former presidents.

Alyssa Mastromonaco, who served as a deputy chief of staff under Obama, was among those to immediately lash out at Trump.

"That's a f***ing lie," she tweeted. "To say President Obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA - he's a deranged animal."

Ben Rhodes, Obama's foreign policy advisor, said: 'This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards.

A GoFundMe page has since been set up to help support the children of Sgt Johnson.