President Trump on Sunday said he did not notify some members of Congress — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and senior Democrats on the committees currently working to impeach him — about a raid on the top ISIS terrorist because he was worried about leaks.
“We notified some [and] others are being notified now as I speak,” Trump said in a speech Sunday.
“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. “There’s no country in the world that leaks like we do, and Washington is a leaking machine.”
Those on the outside included Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA). Trump said that was the safest course of action.
“Washington is a leaking machine,” Trump said. “The only people that knew were the few people that I dealt with … A leak could have caused the death of all of them.”
“I told my people we will not notify them until our great people are out — not just in but out,” Trump added.
The president said he did speak with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Burr (R-NC) about the operation, but only after it had concluded.
“I wanted to make sure this was kept secret. I don’t want to have men lost and women. I don’t want to have people lost,” he said.
In his Sunday morning speech from the White House, Trump declared: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” adding that the ISIS leader was “the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice.”
“As U.S. forces bore down on al-Baghdadi, he fled into a ‘dead-end’ tunnel with three of his children, Trump said, and detonated a suicide vest,” the Associated Press reported.
“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone,” Trump said. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward.” Al-Baghdadi’s identity was confirmed by a DNA test conducted on site, Trump added.
Trump’s decision mirrored that of then-president Barack Obama when U.S. forces raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden. While some congressional leaders were told beforehand, others were kept in the dark.
“Vice President Joe Biden notified congressional leaders of bin Laden’s demise shortly before 10:00 pm, according to FOX, while world leaders were also told of the news,” the New York Post reported then.
Trump tweeted Saturday night that “something very big has just happened,” teasing his Sunday announcement. But he said he sent that tweet after U.S. forces had already returned safely from the mission. The president also said he had notified countries like Russia before the raid.
Schiff told ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday that Trump had made a “mistake” by not notifying the congressional “Gang of Eight,” made up of the top Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence committee as well as leaders from both parties.
“In terms of notifying the Gang of Eight, that wasn’t done. Look, the reason to notify the Gang of Eight is frankly more important when things go wrong. If — the president said it was dangerous flying in. The Russians could have shot down American planes,” Schiff said.
“Had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a firefight 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,” the California Democrat said.