President Trump told reporters Monday that concerns about leaking kept his team from briefing Democrat congressional leaders about the military operation that resulted in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Trump explained on Sunday when he first announced ISIS caliph’s death that he kept certain Democrats in the dark to avoid leaks that could compromise the mission and lead to the death of U.S. troops.
He provided more insight into his reasoning before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Chicago Monday morning, singling out House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) as a particular concern. The president was heading to Chicago to deliver remarks at the International Association of the Chiefs of Police Annual Conference and Exposition.
The president also told reporters that Baghdadi should have been captured a long time ago. “Unfortunately he wasn’t. He’s done tremendous damage,” Trump said.
When asked about his decision not to brief Democrat members of the Gang of Eight, Trump answered: “The only thing is they were talking about why didn’t I give the information to Adam Schiff and his committee, and the answer is because I think Adam Schiff is the biggest leaker in Washington. You know that, I know that, we all know that. I’ve watched Adam Schiff leak. He’s a corrupt politician. He’s a leaker like nobody has ever seen before.”
Trump then went on a long diatribe against Schiff, ripping him for his handling of the impeachment investigation, including his recitation of fabricated quotes from Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump said Schiff had committed a “criminal act” by putting the embellished version of the call on the congressional record.
Because Trump tied his concerns about Schiff’s habitual leaking to his corrupt behavior in the Ukraine controversy, the AP took the opportunity to spin the White House’s valid concerns about leaks as retribution against Democrats for impeachment.
“President Donald Trump is suggesting House Democrats’ impeachment probe contributed to his decision to withhold notice to congressional leaders,” the AP reported in a news story that reads like an oped. “Trump’s decision not to inform leaders is the latest example of the Trump White House keeping Congress in the dark on foreign policy.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Trump on Sunday for refusing to inform House Democrats about the raid.
“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 complained. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”
But Trump said Sunday that he withheld the information because he did not want any members of the U.S. forces to die.
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t do that. I wanted to make sure this kept secret,” Trump explained. “I don’t want to have people lost.”
Before boarding Air Force One on Monday, Trump also said that he may release some video footage of the raid.
“We’re thinking about it. … We may take certain parts of it and release it, yes,” Trump told reporters.
The president on Sunday described in vivid detail how U.S. forces and military dogs hunted down al-Baghdadi in a tunnel in Syria, saying that before the ISIS leader detonated his suicide vest, he “died like a dog, died like a coward” and was “whimpering, screaming and crying.”