Trump-Isis raid: Democrats demand to know why president told Russia about Baghdadi operation before Congress

Chris Riotta
Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Air ForceOne at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland: AP

Democrats have slammed Donald Trump for not informing officials on Capitol Hill beforehand about the raid conducted over the weekend that led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, said 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”.

"Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington," she added.

Mr Trump said he did not follow convention in informing leaders on Capitol Hill, including Ms Pelosi, before the raid, saying he was fearful of leaks.

Speaking to reporters on Monday morning about the decision not to inform key Democrats, Mr Trump described House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff as “the biggest leaker in Washington”. Mr Schiff is one of three House chairmen spearheading an impeachment inquiry against the president.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the mission was to capture or kill the Islamic State leader. While Mr Trump had initially said no Americans were injured, Mr Esper said two service members suffered minor injuries but have already returned to duty.

Mr Trump said he contacted both Mr Graham and Senator Richard Burr -- both Republicans -- before he announced the completion of the raid. He said he decided not to inform Ms Pelosi and others because "Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before".

“Washington is a leaking machine,” the president said. “And I told my people, we will not notify them until 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.”

In his address from the White House on Sunday, Mr Trump suggested that the killing of Baghdadi was more significant than the 2011 operation ordered by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Mr Trump later repeated a false claim that he predicted the threat posed by bin Laden in a book before the 2001 attacks.

He also praised Russia and the Syrian government — American foes — and defended his ban on entry to the US from several Muslim-majority countries. He then called European allies “a tremendous disappointment” for not repatriating foreign Isis fighters.

Mr Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said Baghdadi’s remains would be dealt with in accordance with Islamic law and buried at sea in the same way that bin Laden’s were.

Praise for the military operation was swift, coming from American allies and even the president’s political opponents. In congratulating the US forces and intelligence officials, but not Mr Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden warned that Isis “remains a threat to the American people and our allies".

Baghdadi’s presence in the village a few kilometres from the Turkish border was surprising, even if some Isis leaders are believed to have fled to Idlib after losing their last sliver of territory in Syria to US-allied Kurdish forces in March.

Iraqi officials said on Sunday that they passed information that helped determine Baghdadi’s whereabouts to the US from the wife of an Iraqi aide to the Isis leader, as well as his brother-in-law, who was recently arrested by the Iraqis.

The officials weren’t authorised to publicly discuss intelligence operations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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