Soon after the morning announcement of the U.S. raid targeting Baghdadi, the White House proclaimed that under Trump’s watch, “we’ve obliterated” the militant leader and his self-proclaimed “caliphate.” Trump’s reelection campaign, meanwhile, began messaging supporters that “Pres. Trump has brought the #1 terrorist leader to justice.”
But eight years ago, Trump was highly critical of what he described as President Barack Obama’s undeserved “bragging” about the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Trump spent months insisting that Obama did not deserve credit for the May 2011 raid that ended with bin Laden’s death.
In a December 2011 CNN interview about the 2012 presidential candidates, Trump repeatedly rejected Wolf Blitzer’s statement crediting Obama for bin Laden’s death.
“But anybody sitting in that office, Wolf, would have — I keep hearing about, oh, bin Laden, the military did an incredible job and they called and they said, we have him. And he said, go get him,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the conversation. “What’s he going to say, don’t get him? And he gets all this credit? It’s a lot of crap.”
Trump returned to that grievance multiple times. In April 2012, he tweeted an article that conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote for Breitbart, which claimed that Adm. William McRaven — not Obama — was “the hero here.” Above a link to the story, Trump wrote that Obama merely “gave vague directions.”
Days later, Trump called in to CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to talk about Rupert Murdoch, the White House correspondents’ dinner, his disdain for wind farms — and Obama’s “use” of bin Laden’s death in his reelection campaign. Trump said the then-president had to “use whatever he can use,” adding that he “can’t use the economy.”
Trump suggested that the Obama administration should have known of bin Laden’s whereabouts “years before,” then added that anyone in Obama’s position would have been able to do what he did.
“Any president sitting there when the generals come in and say we have him, who’s going to say, oh, let’s leave him alone?” Trump asked. “No person that I know of.”
In August 2012, Trump tweeted more criticism of Obama’s handling of the bin Laden matter, this time suggesting that he was using the al-Qaeda leader’s death for his own benefit.
Trump again insisted in October that Obama was not deserving of credit on that front, writing in a tweet that the praise should instead go to “our brave military and intelligence officers.”
As Obama debated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney later in the month, Trump opined on Twitter that the sitting president was “an easy target on foreign policy.” He also suggested that Obama would start “bragging about Bin Laden.”
In a second tweet posted 34 minutes later, he said that all Obama had done with regard to the raid was “say O.K.,” once again asserting that the Navy SEALs who carried it out were the ones deserving of credit.
Trump was seemingly fixated on the topic that night. He returned to it a third time a few hours later, demanding that people “stop congratulating Obama for killing Bin Laden.”
Four more tweets about Obama’s allegedly undeserved credit for the raid followed over the next morning and afternoon. Trump said Obama “works hard to take all the credit away” from the military and Navy SEALs. He also claimed — incorrectly — that the debate was the first time that Obama had used the term “we” instead of “I” in describing the terrorist leader’s killing.
During his Sunday announcement about Baghdadi, Trump apparently still had the killing of bin Laden on his mind. He inaccurately claimed — not for the first time — that he had warned before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the al-Qaeda leader was plotting terrorist strikes. Trump also suggested that Baghdadi’s death was more significant than bin Laden’s.
“This is the biggest there is. This is the worst ever,” Trump said. “Osama bin Laden was very big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center. This is a man who built a whole, as he would like to call it, a country, a caliphate, and was trying to do it again.”