Whether President Trump’s last minute, semi-secret visit to Iraq to visit U.S. troops was a response to the intense criticism he received after being outed as the first commander in chief to fail to visit the armed forces during the holiday season since 2002 or merely — as some on Twitter have speculated — an end-run around restrictions on the use of Air Force One during Trump’s government shutdown to get the president to a lucrative Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve event that promised presidential access, Trump couldn’t manage to pull off the paltry three hour visit without a major screw up.
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According to a report by Newsweek, Trump accidentally revealed the deployment of a surreptitious team of Navy SEALs in Iraq by posting a video of his visit to Twitter the moment he was out of Iraqi airspace.
Newsweek quotes the pool report by journalists assigned to share the coverage of the presidential trip as detailing a selfie that Trump took with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Kyu Lee, who said he was the chaplain for SEAL Team Five, based out of Coronado, California. According to the chaplain, Trump asked for the selfie after he identified himself as a member of the SEAL team, saying “Hey, in that case, let’s take a picture.”
The video that the president subsequently posted to Twitter is a montage of footage cut to country singer Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and shows Trump and the first lady posing for pictures with the special warfare commandos dressed in full battle gear and wearing night vision goggles.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2018
Former U.S. Navy intelligence specialist Malcolm Nance told Newsweek that the tweet was a sharp break from the usually strictly-enforced restrictions on revealing the presence of special operations forces in combat zones.
“Operational security is the most important aspect of personnel deployments. The real names, faces, and identities, of personnel involved in special operations or activities, are usually a closely held secret in a combat zone,” Nance said.
“Revealing them casually, through an unusual media exposure even if it’s the commander in chief, would prove a propaganda boom if any of this personnel are detained by a hostile government or captured by a terrorist group. There would be no denying who you are and what you do,” he added.
Having prematurely forced out Jim Mattis, his Secretary of Defense, in a fit of pique once he belatedly realized that the former General had criticized his defense policies in a resignation letter that Trump had likely not bothered to read or comprehend until Fox News told him what it contained, Trump’s ability to act as commander in chief without an actual seasoned military expert at his beck and call is now being called into question with increasing anxiety.
A Defense Department official who asked to remain anonymous told Newsweek that the president’s snafu was a serious issue.
“The deployments of special operation forces, including Navy SEALs are almost classified events, as to protect those men and women that are on the front lines of every overt and covert conflict the United States is involved in,” the offical said.
“Even during special operation demonstrations for congressional delegations or for the president or vice president, personnel either have their faces covered or their face is digitally blurred prior to a release to the general public. I don’t recall another time where special operation forces had to pose with their faces visible while serving in a war zone,” the Pentagon official admitted.
Obviously, for this particular president the importance of tweeting out evidence that he had visited overseas troops for the first time in his nearly two years in office — after facing such derision for his alleged fear of being killed during such a visit — was far more important than any security concerns over the safety of his living photo opportunity props.
Trump’s continued incompetence is an embarrassment and a danger to the nation. He needs to resign or be removed from office as soon as possible to ensure the safety of our country. Any other option poses an incalculable risk to America.
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Original reporting by James LaPorta at Newsweek.