House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that President Donald Trump told Russian officials before senior members of Congress about the U.S. military raid that ended in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the so-called Islamic State.
“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,” she said in a statement responding to the Saturday night operation. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”
On Sunday morning, Trump announced in a press conference that Baghdadi died in northern Syria after being chased into a dead-end tunnel with three of his children. The four were killed by a suicide vest he detonated.
The successful mission brings an end to the years-long manhunt for Baghdadi and marks a crucial blow to ISIS. But according to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Trump never gave him or other members of the “Gang of Eight” ― a bipartisan group of lawmakers comprised of the most senior members of Congress, including Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) ― a tipoff beforehand.
“That wasn’t done here,” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I think that’s a mistake, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that it was a success and a ruthless killer has been taken off the battlefield.”
Though Schiff praised the accomplishment, he noted that communicating such developments with lawmakers is key in the event that complications arise.
“Had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a firefight with the Russians, it’s to the administration’s advantage to be able to say ‘we informed Congress,’” he said.
Trump acknowledged to reporters that he notified only “some” congressional leaders because he “wanted to make sure [the raid was] kept secret” because “Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.”
The president said he contacted Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) before his announcement.
During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s handling of the matter, and avoided answering host Chris Wallace’s queries about why Pelosi was not given a heads-up.
Presented with the question repeatedly, Pence refused to offer a direct response, focusing only on the military feat.