USA TODAY US Edition
Key Democrats, lawmakers were kept in dark
‘Washington is a leaking machine,’ president says
President Trump says he feared the mission would be leaked.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump did not give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or other key members of Congress advance notice of the Saturday night raid that ended in the death of terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Trump said he knew about plans for the top-secret mission for three days but kept most members of Congress in the dark because he feared the information would be leaked to the public and endanger the lives of American forces.
“Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Sunday. “There’s no country in the world that leaks like we do. And Washington is a leaking machine.”
Trump, who announced al-Baghdadi’s death in a televised address to the nation, said he was notifying Pelosi and other members of Congress on Sunday.
The raid, carried out Saturday night by special operations forces in northwestern Syria, comes amid increasingly hostile relations between Trump and House Democrats who are conducting an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
In a statement, Pelosi saluted the “heroism, dedication and skill” of the military and intelligence officials who played a role in the mission and said she was relieved that no U.S. personnel died in the raid.
But, she said, “the House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top congressional leadership were notified of in advance.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., applauded the death of al-Baghdadi, who led the terrorist group the Islamic State, or ISIS.
His office did not say whether he had been given advance notice of the raid.
In his remarks to reporters, Trump said he withheld information about the raid from most Congress members until American forces were out of harm’s way because he didn’t want them to be “greeted with firepower like you wouldn’t believe.”
“A leak could have caused the death of all of them,” he said.
Only a handful of people knew details of the mission, Trump said. They included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Gen. Mark Milley and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“The only people who knew were the few that I dealt with,” Trump said.
Trump said he informed Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, of the raid before the announcement Sunday. He said he also spoke to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., shortly before his televised address.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is one of the leaders of the impeachment investigation against Trump, was not notified.
Neither was Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., his office said.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Graham complimented Trump for carrying out the mission.
“ISIS is a depraved organization,” Graham said. “They’re religious Nazis. It cannot be accommodated. It cannot be negotiated with. They have to be destroyed and marginalized.”
Asked if Trump was wrong to withhold information about the mission from Democrats, Graham said he didn’t know.
“This is a moment where President Trump’s worst critics should say, ‘Well done,’ ” Graham said.