Donald Trump said Sunday morning he didn’t inform Nancy Pelosi in advance of the U.S. operation to raid ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s lair in Syria.
‘No, I didn’t do that,’ Trump said when a reporter queried if he had shared plans of the raid with the House Speaker before it was carried out overnight.
‘I wanted to make sure this kept secret. I didn’t want to have men lost, and women. I don’t want to have people lost,’ the president added, claiming he told no one outside the circle of those involved in approving and organizing the operation.
In the early hours of Sunday morning – Saturday night EST – U.S. Special Operations carried out a mission in northwest Syria that resulted in the death of al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children, when he was cornered by U.S. forced at his lair in a village known for smuggling.
At a separate point while addressing the nation from the Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump insisted he didn’t want to notify too many people of the planned raid or of its success until U.S. forces were out of the area so he wouldn’t risk their lives with a leak.
Donald Trump said he didn’t share details of the operation with anyone in Congress because he was concerned it would leak and jeopardize the safety of those carrying out the mission to capture or kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Adam Schiff said it would have been to the president’s advantage to share the raid with the Gang of Eight in the Intelligence Committee, but said he didn’t want to take away from the fact that al-Baghdadi’s death is a win for America and the world
Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of telling Russian but not congressional leaders, including herself. Trump said, however, that Russia was not aware of any of the details of the mission, and only that he would need to use Russia-controlled air space
No U.S. forces lost their lives in the operation, and only one canine and two troops were injured – but the two troops are already back at work, the president confirmed.
‘We have notified some, others are being notified now as I speak,’ Trump told the room of reporters. ‘We were going to notify them last night but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.’
‘There is no country in the world that leaks like we do. And Washington is a leaking machine and I told my people, we will not notify them until the – our great people are out. Not just in, but out,’ Trump asserted. ‘I don’t want to have them greeted with fire power like you wouldn’t believe. So we were able to get in and it was top secret. It was kept, there were no leaks or no nothing. The only people that knew were the few people I dealt with.’
A picture was shared by Trump’s director of social media that showed the president in the Situation Room with National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark Milley and Brig. General Marcus Evans.
‘This is a small group of people that knew about this,’ Trump said of the group of men. ‘We had very, very few people. A leak — a leak could have caused the death of all of them.’
Presumably and historically, the president would inform the Gang of Eight, which is a bi-partisan group of eight United States Senators – four Democrats and four Republicans – on the intelligence committee of highly sensitive matters, like a planned attack on a terrorist leader.
‘In terms of notifying the Gang of Eight – that wasn’t done,’ Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, part of that small group, said in an appearance on ABC Sunday morning.
‘Look, the reason to notify the Gang of Eight is frankly more important if things go wrong,’ Schiff said, adding that if Russians were hostile and shot down U.S. plans, it would have been important for the intelligence community to be aware of what operations were underway when that happened.
‘We were going to notify them last night but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before,’ Trump said in addressing the country Sunday morning. ‘There is no country in the world that leaks like we do. And Washington is a leaking machine and I told my people, we will not notify them until the – our great people are out’
‘Had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a fire fight with the Russians, it’s to the administration’s advantage to be able to say, ‘We informed Congress we were going in, they were aware of the risks, we at least gave them the chance to provide feedback. That wasn’t done here. I think that’s a mistake,’ Schiff said.
The Trump critic, however, did say he didn’t want to take away from the fact that this is a victory for the U.S. and the world.
Pelosi accused the president of keeping U.S. officials and lawmakers in the dark, but sharing plans with Russia, which Trump claims he did not do.
‘The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top Congressional Leadership were notified of in advance, and on the Administration’s overall strategy in the region. Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington,’ Pelosi said in a statement shared by CNN.
Trump confirmed during his remarks that Russia was helpful in assisting with the raid – clearing up air space in Russian-controlled areas so the U.S. could carry out its mission. But he insisted that Russia, and other countries that cooperated with the U.S., was not aware of the specifics of the operation.
‘Russia treated us great, they opened up. We had to fly over certain Russia areas – Russia-held areas. Russia was great. Iraq was excellent. We really had great cooperation, and you have to understand, they didn’t know what we were doing and where we were going exactly,’ he said. ‘But the ISIS fighters are hated as much by Russia and some of these other countries as they are by us.’
‘We spoke to the Russian, we told them, ‘We’re coming in.’ And they said, ‘Thank you for telling us.’ They were very good,’ Trump said, reiterating that the Kremlin was not aware of the plans to capture or kill al-Baghdadi.
‘We did tell them, ‘We think you’re going to be very happy,’ because, you know, again, they hate ISIS as much as we do. You know what ISIS has done to Russia. So, no, we did not tell – they did not know the mission but they knew they were going over the area that they had a lot of fire power.’