Trump says he’ll help with funeral costs for slain soldier

Trump_48043 Gloria Guillen, the mother of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, meets with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Trump_Slain_Soldier_Texas_43073 President Donald Trump speaks as he meets with the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington. Seated from left, family attorney Natalie Khawam, Vanessa's father Rogelio Guillen, Vanessa's mother Gloria Guillen, Trump, Vanessa's sister Mayra Guillen and Vanessa's sister Lupe Guillen. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stands at top right.
Trump_Slain_Soldier_Texas_94845 President Donald Trump meets with the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Trump_Slain_Soldier_Texas_44356 Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen's mother Gloria Guillen listens as she meets with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Trump_Slain_Soldier_Texas_61403 Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen's mother Gloria Guillen, left, speaks as she meets with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_97928 Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen march to the White House along the National Mall as Capitol Hill is seen in the distance after a news conference, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_29009 Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, pray together before a news conference on the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_44892 Slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen's mother Gloria Guillen wears a sticker with her daughters image and a Blessed Virgin Mary necklace during a news conference on the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_03360 Slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen's mother Gloria Guillen, center, and Vanessa's sisters Lupe Guillen, left, and, Mayra Guillen, right, sit together surrounded by supporters during a news conference on the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_45221 A supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen wears a tattoo of Vanessa's image doing a new conference on the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_03607 Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, including Susana Vaca, right, gather before a news conference on the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_26121 Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen march to the White House along the National Mall as Capitol Hill is seen in the distance after a news conference, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_27403 From left, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, and the family of Slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, her sister Lupe Guillen, mother Gloria Guillen, sister Mayra Guillen, and father Rogelio Guillen sit together surrounded by supporters during a news conference on the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_45200 Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, gather before a news conference on the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
Slain_Soldier_Texas_68164 Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen march to the White House along the National Mall as Capitol Hill is seen in the distance after a news conference, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump met Thursday with the family of a soldier who investigators say was slain on the Texas Army base where she was stationed, saying it is a “terrible story” and that he would help with funeral expenses.

The family of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were found July 2 following her disappearance in April from Fort Hood, rallied with several dozen supporters before the meeting with Trump, calling for justice in the case and for changes in the way the military handles sexual abuse and harassment.

“It’s an incredible story. It’s a terrible story,” Trump said to the family in the Oval Office. “So we’re going to look into it very powerfully. We already have started, as you know, and we’ll get to the bottom of it. Maybe things can come out that will help other people in a situation like Vanessa. We’ll be in touch with you constantly.”

Guillen’s family has said she was sexually harassed by the fellow solider suspected of killing her, but the Army has said there is no evidence supporting the claim. The Army has said she may have experienced harassment by others at the base that was not sexual in nature. Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy on July 10 ordered a review of the command climate at Fort Hood.

“The truth will come out whether they like it or not,” said Lupe Guillen, the younger sister of Vanessa Guillen, said ahead of the meeting with the president.

She said relatives were disappointed to not have heard from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding her sister’s case and were ready to take their story straight to the White House.

John Wittman, a spokesperson for Abbott, said the governor’s office has not heard from the Guillen family but is prepared to help. He said the governor’s office was looking into whether Texas has any authority over a U.S. military death. He also said the Texas attorney general’s office was looking into whether the family may be eligible for assistance from the crime victim’s compensation fund.

“Governor Abbott’s heart aches for the Guillen family and he and the First Lady keep them in their prayers,” Wittman said in a text message.

Investigators have not revealed a motive for Guillen’s death. They said in a complaint that she was bludgeoned to death in the armory room of the Army base near Killeen. Fellow Fort Hood soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, is suspected to have killed and dismembered Guillen. Robinson killed himself after being confronted by police on July 1. A civilian suspect, 22-year-old Cecily Aguilar, is in custody on three counts of conspiracy to destroy evidence for helping Robinson hide Guillen’s remains and attempting to flee.

The family is pushing a bill that would address procedures for reporting sexual harassment and assault in the military, according to the family’s lawyer, Natalie Khawam, who helped write it. U.S. Reps. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, are sponsoring the bill, which is named #IAmVanessaGuillen after a social media movement on harassment in the military.

Guillen’s mother, Gloria Guillen, said she was angry to hear McCarthy say her daughter was not sexually harassed. She said she had spoken to her daughter about the harassment, but Gloria Guillen did not detail what her daughter said. She said she was speaking up for all women in the military.

“If there is war, who is going to defend us if our soldiers are scared to join?” she said in Spanish. “Who is going to guard our country if our soldiers are being assaulted, killed and disappeared?”

A funeral has not been held for Guillen because relatives are still waiting for her remains, Khawam told Trump. They hope to have a service soon in Houston.

“And if I can help you out with the funeral, I’ll help you out, financially, I’ll help you,” Trump said.

Army officials said that the panel reviewing the climate and culture of the military community at Fort Hood will include former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division Chris Swecker, chairman of McGuireWoods LLP Jonathan Harmon, assistant general counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Carrie Ricci, regional director of veteran nonprofit FourBlock Queta Rodriguez and Jack White, a partner at Fluet Huber + Hoang.

___

Acacia Coronado reported from Austin, Texas. She is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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