4 times the Navy SEAL admiral who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid has lambasted Trump

David Choi
William H. McRaven Camp McCloskey

US Army photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann


Retired US Navy Adm. William McRaven, former head of Special Operations Command, delivered his fiercest criticism of President Donald Trump yet in a column in The New York Times on Thursday.

McRaven's 36-year military career was marked by several high-profile accomplishments, including his leadership role in Operation Neptune Spear, targeting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, in 2011.

He retired from the Navy in 2014 and became the chancellor of the University of Texas system in 2015. Two years later, he said he would leave that job, citing health concerns.

McRaven has written several bestselling books about leadership, including "Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life ... And Maybe the World" and "Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations."

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McRaven has taken issue with Trump's policies and demeanor throughout his presidency, writing several striking opinion columns and criticizing him in interviews. While it is not uncommon for retired senior officers to speak for or against a sitting president, McRaven's comments have attracted significant attention due to his seniority and service.

Trump has responded by denigrating McRaven's military service and accusing him of being politically biased, calling the retired admiral a "Hillary Clinton fan" and an "Obama backer" during a Fox News interview in November.

"Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that? Wouldn't it have been nice?" Trump said.

McRaven has said he "did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else" during the 2016 presidential election and denied reports he was on the short list to be Clinton's vice presidential running mate.

Here are a few of McRaven's criticisms of Trump.

Trump's attacks against the media are "the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime."

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Weeks after Trump's inauguration, McRaven expressed concern over the president's continued attacks against the media.

"The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people," McRaven said in a speech at the University of Texas on February 21, 2017. "This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime."

His comments followed tweets by Trump that characterized several news outlets as "The FAKE NEWS media" and "the enemy of the American people."

McRaven majored in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.



"You have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children."

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In a Washington Post opinion column in August 2018, McRaven criticized Trump and the White House's decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.

Brennan, who was deeply critical of Trump, described the move as an effort to "suppress freedom of speech & punish critics."

The White House said its decision was based on Brennan's "erratic conduct and behavior" and that it questioned his "objectivity and credibility."

"Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation's most closely held secrets and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos," the White House said at the time.

McRaven described Brennan as "one of the finest public servants" and dared the White House to revoke his own security clearance.

"I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency," McRaven wrote.

"A good leader sets the example for others to follow," McRaven added. "A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself."

"Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities," McRaven wrote of Trump. "Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation."



Trump "may want to look at the examples of the two presidents that came before him."

Doug Mills/AP

During a CNN interview in June, McRaven admitted he and Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush "didn't agree ... on every issue."

But McRaven said that despite their differences, the two presidents displayed intrinsic qualities that kept him from questioning their character.

"They were men of great integrity and great character and were always trying to do what was right for the nation," McRaven said.

McRaven contrasted those presidents with Trump, who he hoped would take on some of values of previous commanders-in-chief.

"And my hope and my prayers continue to be that President Trump will see that integrity and character and doing what is right for the nation," McRaven said.

McRaven added that he believed Trump "tries to do" what he believes is right for the country but that "he may want to look at the examples of the two presidents that came before him."



America is "under attack from the president."

Jacquelyn Martin, File/AP Photo

In a New York Times opinion column, titled "Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President," published on October 17, McRaven warned that Trump's policies were a stain on the US and its values.

In the column, McRaven recounted an instance this month in which a retired four-star general gave a candid assessment of the president.

"One retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, 'I don't like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic,'" McRaven wrote. "Those words echoed with me throughout the week."

McRaven pointed out what he said were examples of the US neglecting its duty to be the "the protectors of the less fortunate."

"If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can't have faith in our nation's principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military," McRaven wrote. "And if they don't join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up?"