President Donald Trump said Sunday he cloaked the raid to kill Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in secrecy, telling only his closest advisers, two Republican lawmakers and no opposition Democrats in advance, for fear of leaks about the operation.
Trump told reporters at the White House that Russia was given a heads-up that a mission was underway but not the details.
The U.S. leader said he informed Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a key political ally in Congress, Senator Lindsey Graham, but no others. He did not inform such key Democrats as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence panel who also is leading the ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump, who normally would be informed of such an important U.S. military operation..
The White House released a photo of Trump watching the raid unfold alongside Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, national security adviser Robert O'Brien, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Marcus Evans, deputy director for special operations on the Joint Staff.
Trump said his view of the raid from the White House Situation Room "was as though you were watching a movie."
"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."
Asked if he had called Pelosi, another Trump critic, ahead of time, Trump said, "I did not do that," adding he "wanted to make sure" the mission was kept "secret."
"I don't want to have men or women lost," he said. "I don't want to have people lost."
Pelosi praised the raid, saying it was "significant, but the death of this ISIS leader does not mean the death of ISIS."
"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."
Schiff said while he was not informed ahead of time, "this is a great day, a ruthless killer has been brought to justice."