At the Pentagon
A GOOD BOY NAMED ███████: One of the most hotly-pursued secrets in Washington right now is … the name of the “beautiful” and “talented” dog that was injured during the U.S. raid targeting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria's Idlib province.
President Trump described in vivid detail how the dog chased the Islamic State commander into the final moments of his life: Down a tunnel where Baghdadi then detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three children. Trump's movie-script flourishes and lavish praise for the crucial member of the Army's elite Delta Force left many in search of more details — which the Pentagon kept on a tight leash.
U.S. official confirms that the working dog wounded in the Baghdadi raid is ok.— Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) October 28, 2019
I said: "What's the dog's name?"
Source said: "It's classified."
I said: "Really?"
Source said: "Yes."
I'm still not positive if the source is kidding or not.
- The pooch is now back at work with its top secret identity intact: “We’re not releasing the name of the dog right now. The dog is still in theater,” Joints Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday, adding that the dog was “slightly wounded and fully recovering.”
Trump himself — notoriously the first president in more than a century with no dog — continued to drive the warm and fuzzy story (and tout the mission's success) by tweeting out a declassified photo of the dog. The move followed nearly a whole day of the Pentagon wrestling with how much to say about the pooch, according to our colleague Dan Lamothe. The dog could then be identified as a male Belgian Malinois, the same breed who accompanied Navy SEALS on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi! pic.twitter.com/PDMx9nZWvw— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2019
- And the president generally known to dislike dogs (just ask his ex-wife Ivana Trump) had a very special invitation: “The dog who aided the ISIS raid has an invitation to the White House 'whenever he can get over here,' per senior official,” the New York Times's Katie Rogers tweeted. “The president wants to meet him.”
- “He has no filter … But also if he knows something, and he thinks it's going to be good to say or make him appear smarter or stronger, he'll just blurt it out,” one former White House official told NBC News's Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee of the dog drama.
QUIET PAW-FESSIONAL: While Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper joked that the Pentagon was “protecting the dog's identity,” it's not really a joke: There's a long history of keeping the names of special forces canines quiet. But the reasons are controversial even within the military dog world, and some reports of the possible name -- Conan -- started to trickle out by end of day.
- “I don’t really get it frankly,” Mike Ritland, who served for 12 years as a Navy SEAL and then as a U.S. Naval Special Warfare canine trainer, told Power Up. “I think it’s kind of silly, but that’s their prerogative.”
- However, other officials and experts said the protocol was necessary to protect the secrecy of the entire unit. Ron Aiello, who takes care of retired special forces canines as president of the U.S. War Dogs Association, explained that the dogs are treated with the same care as their handlers, whose names are also classified.
- “Three U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to sensitivity about the raid, said Monday that the dog’s identity was classified because of its affiliation with a classified unit. Releasing the name, they said, ran the risk of identifying the service members to which it was assigned,” per Dan.
- Cairo, the name U.S. government gave to identify the Belgian Malinois who captured Americans' hearts in 2011 for being the only four-legged member of the team that killed bin Laden, might not even be real, Aiello told Power Up: “That may even be a phony name just to keep the dog in the dark and out of public view for security reasons. That was my understanding … That’s what I was told by a handler in the Delta Force.”
For those joking about the classified dog name, there’s actually a security reason for it:— Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) October 28, 2019
-Knowing dog’s name, u can determine the handler
-Knowing the handler, u can determine the unit
-Knowing the unit, tells which Delta unit(s) was part of the raid.
The way the U.S. military treats its dogs has come a long way since they were first used in the Vietnam War. “They are not just equipment like they used to be,” Aiello said, adding that the military used to euthanize dogs after they were too old to serve even if they were expected to live on for several more years. In 2000, President Bill Clinton passed what's known as Robby's Law, which permits handlers to adopt retired military and police dogs when they are no longer fit for service.
The dogs are now considered the “greatest assets going into combat,” Aiello told Power Up. “To me, they are the first line of defense. They are out there leading the troops and providing important information to the troop leaders. They save thousands of lives doing that.”
That was the sentiment expressed in this case: "The dog is a war veteran and a valued member of the team," a currently serving soldier assigned to Delta Force told the Washington Examiner's Russ Read. "Within the community, he says, 'The injury to the dog is an injury to one of us. These dogs are a special breed of courageous.'" (The dogs traditionally hold the rank of noncommissioned officer, per Russ, and outrank their handlers as a way to prevent mistreatment.)
The process to train and equip these dogs is incredibly expensive. Jim Slater, the president of K-9 Storm which outfits dogs for special forces teams in 30 different countries, told Power Up that every canine receives a custom-fitted vest specific to the dog's body, along with a harness system that enables the dogs to parachute, fast rope out of aircraft, and be lifted into crawl spaces.
They also receive what Slater called an “intruder camera … so it has live, encrypted, full night vision” that enables handlers to see what the dog sees “in zero light conditions.” (Slater declined to comment on whether he outfits U.S. dogs because his company's customer list is confidential.)
- And the training itself is $$$: “These are assets that are worth extreme amounts of money because of the amount of training gone into them — $50,000 to $100,000 dollars in value,” Slater told us.
- Fun fact: British special forces paratrooper dogs “are trained to jump tethered to their handlers from heights as high as 25,000 feet and up to 20 miles away — or a 30 minute glide — from a target location,” Wired's Adam Rawnsley reported in 2010. "The Brits reportedly borrowed the tactic from America's supersecret Delta Force, which first trained dogs to make [such High Altitude High Opening] jumps.”
A very good boy: The admiration that Trump expressed about the dog during his Sunday news conference struck Ritland as an attempt to express “the level of importance that those who work closely with dogs likely conveyed about that dog.”
- “Our bond and relationship with these dogs is powerful — and in a lot of cases even stronger than with humans, because you're sometimes spending more time with the dog,” Ritland told us. “So it’s a really big deal when something happens to the dog.”
But he did take issue with one thing that Trump said in his announcement of Baghdadi's death: “We have these military dogs that are heroes — and he’s talking about [how] this ISIS leader 'died like a dog' -- that's kind of not the right thing to say," Aiello told us through chuckles.
- “No, not dying like our dogs. Our dogs don’t die that way. Our dogs are heroes," Aiello said. "So it was kind of a little contradiction.”
THERE WILL BE A VOTE ON THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY 🚨: "The House will take its first vote on the impeachment inquiry of [Trump] on Thursday, forcing lawmakers to go on record in support or opposition of the investigation and dictating the rules for its next phase," our colleagues John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis report.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's thinking: "The announcement from Democrats underscored that Pelosi has the votes for the resolution; she rarely embarks on a roll call without knowing the outcome. It also suggests the next phase of the probe — with high-profile witnesses called to testify in open session — could push a vote on whether to impeach Trump into December," our colleagues write.
- Such a vote is not without political risk: The measure will be "viewed as a proxy vote for the larger question of impeaching Trump," which could be troublesome for Democrats in tight races.
A victory for Republicans and the White House?: Trump and his allies have been claiming that the House's refusal to hold a floor vote made the inquiry illegitimate. White House counsel Pat Cipollone held it up as one of the reasons the West Wing would not allow officials to testify or turn over key documents, even though such a vote is not constitutionally required.
- But it's unclear the vote will change anything: “Speaker Pelosi is finally admitting what the rest of America already knew — that Democrats were conducting an unauthorized impeachment proceeding, refusing to give the president due process, and their secret, shady, closed door depositions are completely and irreversibly illegitimate,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
- Some Democratic lawmakers also questioned whether process was worth the fight:
Newsflash: there is nothing Pelosi can do to satisfy the “process” concerns of Republicans.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) October 28, 2019
They will change their demands, over and over and over, shamelessly, because guess what...
(whisper voice) this isn’t really about the “process”...
ON TODAY'S DOCKET: The first White House official who was on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine's president will testify. And it could be a doozy. Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, will tell House impeachment investigators that he not only heard Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, but considered it "so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior," the New York Times' Danny Hakim reports.
- The decorated Iraq War veteran "twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a 'sense of duty,' he plans to tell the inquiry," per the Times.
- Key quote from his opening statement: “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.” He'll also say that he worried Trump's actions would “undermine U.S. national security.”
- His statements also appear to contradict E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland's claim that NSC officials did not express to him any concerns about Ukraine policy. "Vindman] will also testify that he confronted [Sondland[ the day the envoy spoke in a White House meeting with Ukrainian officials about 'Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president.'"
Outside the Beltway
FIRES WORSEN IN CALIFORNIA: "A wind-driven brush fire chewed through hillside communities on the west side of Los Angeles ... burning homes and prompting widespread evacuations," the Los Angeles Times's Hannah Fry, Brittny Mejia, Matthew Ormseth, Louis Sahagun and Ruben Vives report of the latest wild fire to ignite across the Golden State.
- California is in a state of emergency: "Climate change is at our doorstep in California. The rest of the world should be paying attention," reads the end of the LA Times's searing editorial.
- Fires are so frequent that the state's residents have become experts at evacuating: "As the nation’s most populous state adjusts to what could be years of record wildfires, cities, businesses and residents are acclimating to a new punishing regimen that will reshape life in California," our colleagues Heather Kelly, Scott Wilson and Joy Lanzendorfer report. "The new evacuation strategies are a sign of how California, strung between the dueling risks of fires and rolling power outages, is adapting to a new reality many officials attribute to climate change."
- Key quote: “They were literally overwhelmed,” Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas told the LA Times of crews fighting the fire within neighborhoods. “They had to make some tough decisions on which houses they were able to protect. Many times, it depends upon where the ember lands.”
BIBI'S UNPOPULARITY PUSHES DEMS ON ISRAELI POLICY: "As Israel and the United States grapple with uncertain politics that could have a massive effect on the future of Israel-Palestinian relations, politically progressive Jewish Americans are showcasing their influence," Elana Schor reports for the Associated Press.
- More details: "Five Democratic presidential candidates addressed thousands of attendees on Sunday and Monday at the national conference of J Street, founded in 2007 as a liberal counterweight to Washington advocacy that its leaders saw as aligning U.S. policymakers with the Israeli government exclusively enough to limit the prospects for meaningful peace with Palestinians," the AP writes.
- Some Dems are going as far as to question whether to use aid to pressure Israel: "So far, at least three Democrats vying to replace Trump — Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — have said they would consider using U.S. aid to Israel to help press its government to take a less hawkish tack."
In the Media
- Jeff Sessions eyeing a return to the Senate: “Sessions strongly considering bid for old Senate seat in Alabama.” By Politico's James Arkin, Burgess Everett and Jake Sherman.
- A powerful story from The Post's amazing prison issue: “The Apology Letter.” By John J. Lennon for The Post Magazine.
- Tom Bossert on the record: Giuliani in position of giving Trump 'bad advice,' says former Homeland Security adviser. By ABC News’s Chris Vlasto, John Santucci, and Kathryn McQuade.
- This one hurts: As his Alzheimer’s looms, Charles and Pam Ogletree take one last walk in love. By the Boston Globe’s Jenna Russell.
- Getty fire: Housekeepers and gardeners go to work despite the flames. By the Los Angeles Times’s Brittny Mejia.
- Rest in peace: Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan dead at 66 after three-year battle with encephalitis. By the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill and Brian Murphy.
- A shocking figure: Homelessness in New York Public Schools Is at a Record High: 114,659 Students. By the New York Times’s Eliza Shapiro.
To confirm al-Baghdadi’s identity, Kurdish spies stole a pair of his “underwear — long, white boxers — and obtained a blood sample, both for DNA testing, the force’s commander...”— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) October 29, 2019
American officials....said that their role in finding Mr. al-Baghdadi was essential. https://t.co/caOcNR4hUf