The U.S. special forces raid that resulted in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi went a long way toward shutting down criticism of the president’s policies in Syria from the opposition party.
It also left the Democratic Party playing catch-up in trying to control the political narrative.
Democrats found themselves in an awkward position of celebrating “the world’s number one terrorist leader,” as Trump characterized al-Baghdadi, being brought to justice without giving the president any glory for making the decision to launch the raid.
Adding to their angst is that Trump did not appear to inform Democratic lawmakers beforehand of the top-secret mission. The second-biggest story of the day on Sunday was that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was kept in the dark and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., appeared on ABC’s “This Week” shortly after the raid to say he was also not informed.
“My understanding [Pelosi] wasn’t [told]. But a couple of things, first of all, good riddance. [Al-Baghdadi] was a bloodthirsty killer to the degree that he retained operational control of ISIS,” Schiff said. “This is an operational success, this is a symbolic victory. He had the blood of thousands and thousands of people on his hands, including many Americans and American journalists. So, this a great day, a ruthless killer has been brought to justice.”
Schiff said it was a “mistake” not to inform the top congressional leaders commonly referred to as the “gang of eight.”
(This includes the House speaker and minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.)
“The reason to notify the ‘gang of eight’ is more important when things go wrong,” he said. “Had something gone wrong, it’s to the administration’s advantage to be able to say ‘we informed Congress, they were aware of the risks.’”
President Trump was asked directly by a reporter if Pelosi was told of the raid.
“No, I didn’t do that. I wanted to make sure this was kept secret,” he replied. “I didn’t want to have men lost. And women. I don’t want to have people lost.”
Trump cited Washington’s penchant for leaking information to justify limiting who in Congress was made aware of the mission.
“We notified some, others are being notified now as I speak,” Trump said. “We were going to notify them last night but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There [is] no country in the world that leaks like we do. Washington is a leaking machine.”
“A leak could have caused the death of all of them,” he added.
In a later statement, Pelosi called for a congressional debriefing on the mission.
“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. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”
According to reports, Trump only informed two members, Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., of the raid beforehand.
In her previously mentioned statement after al-Baghdadi’s death was announced, Pelosi rained on the parade by declaring that his death doesn’t mean the death of ISIS. She also whined about no briefing while noting that Russia was informed.
The president explained on Sunday that Moscow was notified in advance because the U.S. was going to fly over certain “Russia-held areas.”
“We spoke to the Russians. We told them we are coming in,” Trump said. “They did not know the mission but they knew we were going over an area where they had a lot of firepower.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday that he learned about the death of al-Baghdadi after seeing it on television, ABC News reported.
“I didn’t know. I saw it on TV,” he said.
The New York Democrat tried to shift the narrative while calling for a briefing in a statement released later in the day.
“I look forward to receiving a briefing about this raid and the plan to deal with the escaped ISIS prisoners,” Schumer said.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who is not a member of the gang of eight, complained about not being told while insisting that Pelosi is trustworthy.
“I am extremely troubled Trump notified only Republicans, but did not see fit to inform me or any Congressional Democrats of the operation,” Engel said, according to NBC News. “His implication that Speaker Pelosi, the elected representative third in line for the presidency, cannot be trusted with sensitive information is tremendously problematic and insulting, and further politicizes foreign policy — especially when Trump has shown himself to be an untrustworthy guardian of our national security and sensitive intelligence information.”
Outside the media, there was plenty of understanding on why there was a reluctance to inform ruthless Democrats ahead of time on what was a highly sensitive mission.
As one social media user put it: “If Pelosi thinks she needs to know the military strategic plans for our special forces in advance, she should run for commander in chief.”
Here’s a sampling of online reactions, led by ex-Secret Service agent Dan Bongino.
My husband was on active duty the day I watched some news operation, tell everybody and whoever’s listening that we were going to bomb at 3pm est….I am so happy &PROUD @realDonaldTrump, that we finally have somebody who cares for our armed forces and their safety above ALL else
— Redonna Nicholson (@redagain029) October 27, 2019
It was a matter of national security to keep the information away from #ShiftySchiff and his comrades on the left who would have leaked the details and put our troops at risk
— Musings of the Pirate (@MusingsPirate) October 27, 2019
If Pelosi thinks she needs to know the military strategic plans for our special forces in advance, she should run for commander in chief. Otherwise the leaky maiden best watch and learn how a master chess player works the enemy into extinction. https://t.co/jeIdM5VsVT
— Ray Sultz (@rsultzba) October 28, 2019
Pelosi acts as anti-Trump for everything. Why would Trump invite her to screw up this operation?
— Mike (@mikesfzh) October 28, 2019
And looky, looky here: not one effing leak.
— Colorado RedTraci (@goptraci) October 27, 2019
Smart move . Thank- You Pres. Trump
— CLOUISE ADAMS (@cathy411chat) October 27, 2019
Old School Ahoy! pic.twitter.com/AF7DS0Wkud
— Mike Kekel (@KekelMc) October 27, 2019
Schiff would have sacrificed our men in a hot second to make Trump look bad.
— Jay Bird (@RegenFarm17) October 27, 2019
Schiff should respect the secrecy about the raid since he is so fond of it in his impeachment proceedings
— Wendy Morris (@morrislaw) October 27, 2019
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