After U.S. military forces conducted a raid on an ISIS compound in Syria that ultimately resulted in the suicide of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, Donald Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq for their help in supporting the mission.
Yet, despite informing countries that have had an adversarial relationship with the United States about the mission in advance, the president did not let any of the Democratic Congressional leaders who belong to the “Gang of Eight” — the bipartisan group of legislative leaders who are typically briefed on classified intelligence matters by the executive branch — know about the pending mission.
Normal protocol has sensitive intelligence issues immediately brought to the attention of the Gang of Eight which includes the leaders of each of the two parties from both the Senate and House of Representatives, and the chairs and ranking minority members of both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.
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Trump explained his decision to withhold advance notice of the most important national security operation of his tenure to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) by accusing them of potentially leaking news of the operation if they had been informed.
“We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before,” Trump said of his failure to incude the Democrats. “There’s no country in the world that leaks like we do, and Washington is a leaking machine.”
“I told my people we will not notify them until our great people are out — not just in but out,” he added.
“I wanted to make sure this was kept secret. I don’t want to have men lost and women. I don’t want to have people lost,” he said.
Saying that “leak could have caused the death of all of them,” Trump failed to explain why he felt he could notify Russia and Vladimir Putin of the plans ahead of time, but not senior elected officials in the U.S. government.
Trump said that once the operation was over he notified Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who sits on the foreign relations committee and has been uncharacteristically critical of the president over his decision to abandon the Kurdish allies who helped provide some of the intelligence info that led to al-Baghdadi.
The failure to notify the Democratic members of the Gang of Eight in advance with a lame excuse about potential security breaches by people who hold the highest government clearances, however, demonstrates how the animosity that Trump harbors towards the opposition party leaders — who are in the process of conducting a rapidly advancing impeachment inquiry against him — has led to extraordinary retribution and dysfunction in the inner sanctum of the Trump administration.
That the president places more trust in Russia to keep our vital national security secrets safe than he does the Democratic leaders shows that Trump is determined to keep Pelosi and Schumer in the dark about as much as possible and simply begs the question of what else he is hiding from them…besides his tax returns and the testimony of any executive branch employees regarding his criminal behavior in the Ukraine scandal and his efforts to obstruct justice.
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Original reporting by Rebecca Klar at The Hill.