President Donald Trump said Sunday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders were not informed about the military raid that led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to avoid potential leaks.
During a media session after his announcement of al-Baghdadi’s death, Trump was asked specifically about notifying Pelosi.
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t do — I didn’t do that. I wanted to make sure this kept secret. I don’t want to have men lost — and women. I don’t want to have people lost,” Trump said according to a White House media pool report.
Trump said the entire culture of Washington made him cautious.
“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’s nothing — there’s 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. I don’t want to have them greeted with firepower like you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said Sunday morning.
“It was top secret. It was kept. There were no leaks, no nothing. The only people that knew were the few people that I dealt with. And again, Mark Milley and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were incredible. We had some tremendous backup.
“Robert O’Brien, Secretary Esper, Secretary Pompeo. Pence, I told you, he was great. There’s a very small group of people that knew about this. We had very, very few people. A leak — a leak could have cost the death of all of them,” Trump said.
Pelsoi was irked that other nations knew what was coming before she did.
“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,” Pelosi said, according to Fox News. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”
Trump said details of the mission were not revealed. Russia was only notified that the U.S. was undertaking a military mission, and only because Russia had an active military presence where the raid was carried out.
During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Vice President Mike Pence said the secrecy had nothing to do with a lack of trust.
“I don’t think that was the implication at all,” Pence said, adding, “We maintain the tightest possible security here” and focused on Trump’s goal.
In his announcement, Trump said that during the raid in northwestern Syria al-Baghdadi “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.
“Eleven young children were moved out of the house and are uninjured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death,” Trump said Sunday.
“He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it, in addition.”
“But test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him. The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”
Trump said the raid was also an intelligence bonanza.
“We were in the compound for approximately two hours, and after the mission was accomplished, we took highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS origins, future plans, things that we very much want,” he said.
Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the Syrian Kurds for assisting the U.S. in the mission.
“The level of intelligence, the level of work, was pretty amazing. When we landed with eight helicopters, a large crew of brilliant fighters ran out of those helicopters and blew holes into the side of the building, not wanting to go through the main door because that was booby-trapped.
“And there was something — it was something really amazing to see. I got to watch it, along with General Milley, Vice President Pence, others, in the Situation Room,” Trump said, noting that the flight to the location where al-Baghdadi was killed was highly dangerous and one reason Trump kept word of the mission so secret.
Trump was asked how U.S. forces were certain the person who died was al-Baghdadi.
“So, that’s another part of the genius of these people. They brought his — they have his DNA. More of it than they want, even. And they brought it with them with lab technicians who were with them. And they assumed that this was Baghdadi. They thought, visually, it was him. But they assumed it was him, and they did a site — an onsite test. They got samples,” Trump said.
“And to get to his body, they had to remove a lot of debris because the tunnel had collapsed. But these people are very good at that. And — and they, as I said, they brought body parts back with them, et cetera, et cetera. There wasn’t much left.
“The — the vest blew up, but there are still substantial pieces that they brought back. So they did an onsite test because we had to know this. And it was a very quick call that took place about 15 minutes after he was killed, and it was positive.”
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