Below is the full news conference, with highlights, analysis and fact-checking in yellow.
TRUMP: Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world.
The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style.
The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it. No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi's fighters and companions were killed with him.
He died after running into a dead end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.
11 young children were moved out of the house and are uninjured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death.
He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children.
His body was mutilated by the blast. The tunnel had caved in on it in addition, but test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him.
The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him. We were in the compound for approximately two hours and after the mission was accomplished we took highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS, origins, future plans, things that we very much want.
Baghdadi's demise demonstrates America's relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Our reach is very long.
As you know, last month we announced that we recently killed Hamsa bin Laden, the violent son of Osama bin Laden, who was saying very bad things about people, about our country, about the world. He was the heir apparent to al Qaeda.
Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly knowing that we will completely destroy them. These savage monsters will not escape their fate, and they will not escape the final judgment of god.
Baghdadi has been on the run for many years, long before I took office. But at my direction, as commander-in-chief of the United States, we obliterated his caliphate 100 percent in March of this year. Today's events are another reminder that we will continue to pursue the remaining ISIS terrorists to their brutal end. That also goes for other terrorist organizations. They are likewise in our sights. Baghdadi and the losers who worked for him -- and losers, they are -- they had no idea what they were getting into.
In some cases, they were very frightened puppies. In other cases, they were hard-core killers. But they killed many, many people.
Their murder of innocent Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller were especially heinous.
The shocking publicized murder of Jordanian pilot, a wonderful young man -- spoke to the king of Jordan. They all knew him. They all loved him. He was burned alive in a cage for all to see.
And the execution of Christians in Libya and Egypt, as well as the genocidal mass murder of the Yazidis, rank ISIS among the most depraved organizations the history of our world, the forced religious conversions, the orange suits prior to so many beheadings, all of which were openly displayed for the world to see, this was all that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, this is what he wanted. This is what he was proud of.
He was a sick and depraved man. And now he's gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent. And he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying.
This raid was impeccable and could only have taken place with the acknowledgment and help of certain other nations and people.
I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us.
This was a very, very dangerous mission.
Thank you as well to the great intelligence professionals who helped make this very successful journey possible.
I want to thank the soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines involved in last night's operation. You are the very best there is anywhere in the world, no matter where you go. There is nobody even close.
I want to thank General Mark Milley and our Joint Chiefs of Staff. And I also want to thank our professionals who work in other agencies of the United States government and were critical to the mission's unbelievable success.
Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has violently been eliminated. He will never again harm another innocent man, woman or child.
He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.
God bless America. Thank you.
REPORTER: When did you first hear that this was an operation that was going to get started?
TRUMP: We have had him under surveillance for a couple of weeks.
We knew a little bit about where he was going, where he was heading. We had very good information that he was going to another location. He didn't go. Two or three efforts were canceled because he decided to change his mind, constantly changing his mind.
And, finally, we saw that he was here, held up here. We knew something about the compound. We knew it had tunnels. The tunnels were dead-end, for the most part. There was one, we think, that wasn't. But we had that covered too just in case.
The level of intelligence, the level of work was pretty amazing. When we landed with eight helicopters, a large crew of brilliant fighters ran out of those helicopters and blew holes into the side of the building, not wanting to go through the main door because that was booby-trapped. And there was something -- it was something really amazing to see. I got to watch it along with General Millie, Vice President Pence, others in the Situation Room. And we watched it so clearly.
REPORTER: -- body cameras or how did you -- how did you watch --
TRUMP: Well I don’t want to say how, but we had absolutely perfect -- as though you were watching a movie. It was -- that -- that in -- the technology there alone is -- is really great. A big part of the trip that was of great danger was the -- it was approximately an hour and 10 minute flight and we were flying over very, very dangerous territory. In fact, some of our leaders said that that could be the most dangerous, flying in and flying out. And that’s why last night we were so quiet about it. We didn’t say anything and I didn’t make my remark until after they had landed safely in a certain area. But the flight in, the flight out was a -- a very, very dangerous part.
There was a chance that we would have met unbelievable fire. Russia treated us great. They opened up. We had a fly over certain Russia areas, Russia-held areas. Russia was great. Iraq was excellent. We really had great cooperation. And you have to understand, they didn't know what we were doing and where we were going exactly, but the ISIS fighters are hated as much by Russia and some of these other countries as they are by us. And that's why I say they should start doing a lot of the fighting now and they'll be able to. I really believe they'll be able to. Yes, Jennifer?
REPORTER: Sir, can you say what role the Kurds played in this, generally?
TRUMP: They gave us -- not a military role at all, but they gave us some information that turned out to be helpful. The Kurds.
REPORTER: And can you tell us what the role of Turkey might have been and Iraq?
REPORTER: What was the role of Turkey? How did they help?
TRUMP: Turkey -- we dealt with them. They knew we were going in. We flew over some territory. They were terrific. No problem. They were not problem. You know, they could start shooting and then we will take them out, but a lot of bad things can happen. Plus, it was a very secret mission. We flew very, very low and very, very fast. But it was a big -- it was a very dangerous part of the mission. Getting in and getting out, too. Equal. We wanted an identical -- we took an identical route. We met with gunfire coming in, but it was local gunfire. That gunfire was immediately terminated. These people are amazing. They had the gunfire terminated immediately, meaning they were shot from the air ships.
REPORTER: I’m trying to understand the timing. You talked earlier, you know, several weeks (ph) about pulling troops out, you know, and then troops would go back in. And you know, I’m trying to understand the timing of when this operation --
TRUMP: Well, I -- from the first day I came to office -- and now we’re getting close to three years -- I would say where’s al-Baghdadi? I want al-Baghdadi. And we would kill terrorist leaders but they were names I never heard of, whey were names that weren’t recognizable and they weren’t the big names. Some good ones, some important ones but they weren’t the big names. I kept saying where’s al-Baghdadi? And a couple of weeks ago they were able to scope him out. You know, these people are very smart, they’re not into the use of cell phones anymore, they’re not -- they’re very technically brilliant. You know, they use the internet better than almost anybody in the world, perhaps other than Donald Trump.
But they use the internet incredibly well. And what they've done with the internet through recruiting and everything -- and that's why he died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming and crying. And frankly, I think it's something that should be brought out, so that his followers and all of these young kids that want to leave various countries, including the United States, they should see how he died. He didn't die a hero. He died a coward, crying, whimpering, screaming and bringing three kids with him to die. A certain death. And he knew the tunnel had no end. I mean, it was a -- it was a closed end -- they call it a closed end tunnel. Not a good place to be.
REPORTER: So this was going on before you made the announcement that you’re pulling --
TRUMP: I’ve been looking for him for three years. I’ve been looking for him -- I started getting some very positive feedback about a month ago and we had some incredible intelligence officials that did a great job -- that’s what they should be focused on.
REPORTER: About what time did this operation start yesterday, sir? And did you notify...
TRUMP: Well, this operation started two weeks ago in terms of the real operation, because we had him scoped. We thought he would be in a certain location. He was. Things started checking out very well. We were involved on our own team with some brilliant people who I’ve gotten to know, brilliant people that love our country, highly intelligent people. And we’ve had it pretty well scoped out for a couple of weeks.
But he tends to change immediately. He had a lot of cash. He tends to change like on a dime where he'll be going to a certain location, all of a sudden he'll go someplace else and you'll have to cancel. But this was one where we knew he was there, and you can never be 100 percent sure because you're basing it on technology more than anything else. But we thought he was there and then we got a confirmation.
And when we went in, they were greeted with a lot of fire power, a lot of fire power. I tell you, these guys, they do a job, they are so brave and so good and so importantly, many of his people were killed. We'll announce the exact number over the next 24 hours, but many were killed. We lost nobody. Think of that. It's incredible.
REPORTER: And when you told the Russians...
TRUMP: A dog was hurt actually, the k9 was hurt, went into the tunnel, but we lost nobody.
REPORTER: When you requested to the Russians to fly over this area they controlled, what did you...
TRUMP: We spoke to the Russians.
REPORTER: What did you tell them?
TRUMP: We told them we’re coming in. And they said thank you for telling us. They were very good.
REPORTER: Did you tell them why?
TRUMP: No. They did not know why.
REPORTER: Was any other country...
TRUMP: We did tell them, we think you’re going to be very happy because, you know, again, they hate ISIS as much as we do. You know what ISIS has done to Russia.
So no, we did not tell -- they did not know the mission, but they knew we were going over an area that they had a lot of fire power.
REPORTER: And have you notified the congressional leaders about this, Pelosi?
TRUMP: We’ve notified some, others are being notified now as I speak. We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before. There’s nothing -- there’s no country in the world that leaks like we do. And Washington is a leaking machine. And I told my people we will not notify them until our great people are out, not just in but out.
I don't want to have them greeted with fire power like you wouldn't believe.
So we were able to get in. It was top secret. It was kept. There were no leaks, no nothing. The only people that knew were the few people that I dealt with.
And again, Mark Milley and the joint chiefs of staff were incredible. We had some tremendous back-up. Robert O'Brian, Secretary Esper, Secretary Pompeo, Pence I told you. He was great. There's a very small group of people that knew about this. We had very, very few people.
A leak could have cost the death of all of them.
Now, they're so good that I think nothing was going to stop them anyway if you want to know the truth. That's how good they are.
We had them also surrounded by massive air power. Up in the air yesterday surrounded at very high levels. We were very low. We had tremendous air power.
REPORTER: And you watched all this in the sit room? Who were you with in the sit room when you watched this?
TRUMP: Secretary Esper, a few of the joint chiefs, Mark Milley, some generals. We had some very great military people in that room. We had some great intelligence people, Robert O’Brian, really great.
REPORTER: Was the pullout of the U.S. troops in Syria last month strategically tied in with this raid?
TRUMP: No, no the pullout -- great it’s question, and you’re doing a great job by the way. Your network is fantastic. They’re really doing a great job, please let them know. No, the pullout had nothing to do with this. In fact, we found this out at a similar time. It’s a very good question, because we found this out at a similar time.
No, we're after these leaders. And we have others in sight, very bad ones, but this was the big one. This is the biggest one perhaps that we've ever captured, because this is the one that built ISIS and beyond, and was looking to rebuild it again.
That's why he went to this province. This is why he went this area. A lot of people I was watching this morning and hearing, and they were saying, why was he there? People were so surprised.
Well, that's where he was trying to rebuild from, because that was the place that made most sense if you're looking to rebuild.
TRUMP: So, I said that right after I knew they had landed safely.
REPORTER: When they had returned?
And that was to notify you guys that you have something big this morning, so you wouldn't be out playing golf or tennis or otherwise being indisposed.
REPORTER: Where were they safe? Where had they -- where had they landed?
TRUMP: I’d rather not say. But we landed in a very friendly port in a friendly country.
REPORTER: Does this give you any pause about your decision to withdraw...
TRUMP: No. I think it -- it’s great.
Look, we don't want to keep soldiers between Syria and Turkey for the next 200 years. They have been fighting for hundreds of years. We're out.
But we are leaving soldiers to secure the oil. Now, we may have to fight for the oil. That's OK. Maybe somebody else wants the oil, in which case they have a hell of a fight.
But there's massive amounts of oil. And we're securing it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it stops ISIS, because ISIS got tremendous wealth from that oil. We have taken it. It's secured.
Number two -- and, again, somebody else may claim it, but either we will negotiate a deal with whoever is claiming it, if we think it's fair, or we will militarily stop them very quickly.
We have tremendous power in that part of the world. We have -- the airport is right nearby, a very big, very monstrous, very, very powerful airport and very expensive airport, that was built years ago. We're in there for -- we're in that Middle East now for $8 trillion.
So we don't want to be keeping Syria and Turkey -- they're going to have to make their own decision. The Kurds have worked along incredibly with us, but, in all fairness, it was much easier dealing with the Kurds after they went through three days of fighting, because that was a brutal three days.
And if I -- we would have said to the Kurds, do you mind moving over seven miles? Because they were in the middle, mostly. So you have seven or eight miles. Could you mind moving over?
Because, I have to say, Turkey has taken tremendous deaths from that part of the world. You know, we call it a safe zone, but it was anything but a safe zone. Turkey has lost thousands and thousands of people from that safe zone.
So they have always wanted that safe zone for many years. I'm glad I was able to help them get it. But we don't want to be there. We want to be home. I want our soldiers home or fighting something that's meaningful.
I will tell you who loves us being there, Russia and China, because while they build their military, we're depleting our military there. So Russia loves us being there. Now, Russia likes us being there for two reasons, because we kill ISIS. We kill terrorists. And they're very close to Russia.
We're 8,000 miles away. Now, maybe they can get here, but we have done very well with homeland security and the ban, which, by the way, is approved by the United States Supreme Court, as you know. You know, there was a reporter that said we lost a case. And he was right, in the early court.
He refused -- he didn't want to say, just refused to say that we won the case in the Supreme Court. So, you know.
But we have a very effective ban. And it's very hard for people to come to our country. But it's many thousands of miles way, whereas Russia is right there. Turkey is right there. Syria is there. They're all right there.
Excuse me. Iran is right there. Iraq is right there. They all hate ISIS. So, we don't -- you know, in theory, they should do something.
And I will give you something else. The European nations have been a tremendous disappointment, because I personally called, but my people called a lot, take your ISIS fighters.
And they didn't want them. They said, we don't want them. They came from France. They came from Germany. They came from the U.K. They came from a lot of countries.
And I actually said to them, you don't take them, I'm going to drop them right on your border, and you can have fun capturing them again.
But the United States taxpayer is not going to pay for the next 50 years. You see what Guantanamo costs. We're not going to pay tens of billions of dollars because we were good enough to capture people that want to go back to Germany, France, U.K. and other parts of Europe. And they can walk back.
They can't walk to our country. We have lots of water in between our country and them.
So, yes, go.
REPORTER: You -- you mentioned that you had met some -- gotten to know some brilliant people along this process who -- who had helped provide information and -- and -- and advice along the way. Is there anyone in particular or would you like to give anyone credit for getting to this point today?
TRUMP: Well, I -- I would but if I mention one, I have to mention so many. I spoke to Senator Richard Burr this morning and as you know, he’s very involved with intelligence and the committee. And he’s a great gentleman. I spoke with Lindsey Graham just a little while -- in fact, Lindsey Graham is right over here, and he’s been very much involved in this subject and he’s -- he’s a very strong hawk, but I think Lindsey agrees with what we’re doing now. And again, there are plenty of other countries that can help them patrol. I don’t want to leave 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 soldiers on the border. But where Lindsey and I totally agree is the oil.
The oil is, you know, so valuable. For many reasons. It fueled ISIS, number one. Number two, it helps the Kurds, because it's basically been taken away from the Kurds. They were able to live with that oil. And number three, it can help us, because we should be able to take some also. And what I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly. Right now it's not big. It's big oil underground but it's not big oil up top. Much of the machinery has been shot and dead. It's been through wars. But -- and -- and spread out the wealth. But no, we're protecting the oil, we're securing the oil. Now that doesn't mean we don't make a deal at some point.
But I don't want to be -- they're -- they're fighting for 1,000 years, they're fighting for centuries. I want to bring our soldiers back home, but I do want to secure the oil. If you read about the history of Donald Trump, I was a civilian. I had absolutely nothing to do with going into Iraq and I was totally against it. But I always used to say if they're going to go in -- nobody cared that much but it got written about -- if they're going to go in -- I'm sure you've heard the statement because I made it more than any human being alive. If they're going into Iraq, keep the oil. They never did. They never did. I know Lindsey Graham had a bill where basically we would have been paid back for all of the billions of dollars that we've spent.
Many, many billions of dollars. I mean, I hate to say it, it's actually trillions of dollars, but many billions of dollars. And by one vote they were unable to get that approved in the Senate. They had some pretty big opposition from people that shouldn't have opposed like a president, and they weren't able. If you did that, Iraq would be a much different story today because they would be owing us a lot of money. They would be treating us much differently. But I will say Iraq was very good with respect to the raid last night.
REPORTER: Sir, just to -- just to point down the timing a little bit better here, you got back to the White House around 4:30 yesterday afternoon. Did you immediately go to the Situation Room?
TRUMP: Well I knew all about this for three days.
REPORTER: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: Yes. We -- we thought for three days this is what was going to happen. It was actually -- look, nobody was even hurt. Our K9, as they call -- I call it a dog, a beautiful dog, a talented dog -- was injured and brought back, but we had no soldier injured. And they did a lot of shooting and they did a lot of blasting, even not going through the front door. You know, you would think you go through the door. If you’re a normal person, you say knock, knock, may I come in. The fact is that they blasted their way into the house in a very heavy wall and it took them literally seconds. By the time those things went off, they had a beautiful big hole and they ran in and they got everybody by surprise.
Unbelievably brilliant as fighters. I don't -- I can't imagine there could be anybody better. And these, as you know, are our top operations people.
REPORTER: And -- and Baghdadi apparently had been in bad health for some time. Was there any indication of that or --
TRUMP: Well we don’t know that, but he was the last one out and his people had either been killed, which there were many, or gave up and came out, because with the 11 children that came out, we were able to do that. We don’t know if they were his children. They might have been. But as I said, three died in the tunnel. And the tunnel collapsed with the explosion. But -- but you had other fighters coming out also. And they’re being brought back. They’re being -- they’re -- right now we have them imprisoned.
REPORTER: I was going to ask whose children they were. But do you remember what time you went into the Situation Room?
TRUMP: Well, I started at 5:00 o’clock. We were pretty much gathered at 5:00 o’clock yesterday. We were in contact all day long through hopefully secure phones. I’ll let you know tomorrow, but nothing seemed to leak, so I guess they were secure for a change. But we gathered more or less at 5:00. The attack started moments after that. The liftoff started moments after that.
Again, the element of attack that they were most afraid of was getting from our base into that compound because there's tremendous fire power that we were flying over. I won't go into it, but you had a very big Russian presence in one area, you had a Turkish presence, you had a Syrian presence and you're flying low. That's very dangerous.
And there were shots made, but we think these were people that were shooting that were indiscriminately shooting. The helicopters took some shots, but we think these were people that were just random people that don't like to see helicopters I guess.
REPORTER: Was there any kind of DNA test done?
TRUMP: So, that’s another part of the genius of these people. They brought his -- they have his DNA, more of it than they want even. And they brought it with them with lab technicians who were with them
And they assumed this was Baghdadi. They thought visually it was him, but they assumed it was him and they did an on-site test. They got samples. And to get to his body they had to remove a lot of debris, because the tunnel had collapsed, but these people are very good at that.
And as I said, they brought body parts back with them, et cetera, et cetera. There wasn't much left. The vest blew up, but there are still substantial pieces that they brought back.
So they did an on-site test, because we had to know this. And it was a very quick call that took place about 15 minutes after he was killed and it was positive. It was -- this is a confirmation, sir.
REPORTER: It was also reported that his wife had detonated or one of his wives detonated a vest.
TRUMP: So, there were two women, both wives, both wearing vests. They had not detonated, but the fact that they were dead and they had vests on made it very difficult for our men because they had vests on. And it made it very difficult for our men, because you never know what’s going to happen. They’re lying, they’re dead. They never detonated, but they were dead.
REPORTER: On the success, the possible successors, have you been briefed on who...
TRUMP: Yeah, we know the successors And we’ve already got them in our sights. And we’ll tell you that right now, but we know the successors.
Hamsa bin Laden was a big thing, but this is the biggest there is. This is the worst ever. 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.
I had not heard too much about his health. I've heard stories about he may not have been in good health, but he died in a ruthless, vicious manner, that I can tell you.
REPORTER: Were any adults taken?
TRUMP: Yes, we have people that were taken. We have many of the people died on the site, but we have people that were taken, yes. And the children, we left them under care of somebody that we understand.
REPORTER: How many?
TRUMP: 11 children.
REPORTER: 11 children. How many adults?
TRUMP: I’d rather not say. I’d leave that to the generals, but a small group. More dead than alive.
REPORTER: Which special operations teams were involved?
TRUMP: Many of them. And at the top level, and people that were truly incredible at their craft. I’ve never seen anything like it.
REPORTER: And were there -- as far as partnerships goes, were there any other forces involved or was this only American troops?
TRUMP: No, only American forces.
REPORTER: And did the U.S...
TRUMP: Only American forces, but we were given great cooperation.
REPORTER: Did the U.S. rely on...
TRUMP: We told the Russians we’re coming in because we had to go over them. They were curious, but we said we’re coming. We said one way or the other, look, we’re coming, but they were very cooperative. They really were good.
And we did say it would be a mission that they would like too because, you know, again, they hate ISIS as much as we do.
REPORTER: For intel purposes. Was there any -- was there foreign intel that proved useful along the way in this operation?
TRUMP: So, we had our own intel. We got very little help. We didn’t need very much help. We have some incredible people.
When we use our intelligence correctly, what we can do is incredible. When we waste our time with intelligence that hurts our country, because we had poor leadership at the top, that's not good.
But I have gotten to know many of the intel people. And I will say that they are spectacular. Now, they're not going to want to talk about it. They want to keep it quiet, the last thing they want, because these are -- because these are great patriots. But the people that I have been dealing with are incredible people.
And it's really a deserving name, intelligence. I have dealt with some people that aren't very intelligent having to do with intel. But this is the top people. And it was incredible. It was flawless. And it was very complicated.
But -- so I do appreciate Russia, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria to an extent, because, you know, we're flying into Syria. There's a lot of Syrian people with lots of guns. So we had good cover for probably the most dangerous part.
It would not sound to -- when you are flying in, it doesn't sound like that would be the most dangerous, when you're going into shooting nests and all of the things that happened once they broke into that pretty powerful compound.
That was a very strong compound and, as I said, had tunnels. But the most dangerous part, we had great cooperation with.
REPORTER: Did you inform Speaker Pelosi ahead of time?
TRUMP: No, I didn’t. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do that. 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.
REPORTER: Do you anticipate inviting the Special Forces teams to the White House after this?
TRUMP: Oh, yes, they will be invited.
I don’t know if they will want to have their faces shown, to be honest with you. You know, they want to -- they’re incredible for the country. They’re not looking for public relations. But they love doing what they’re doing.
I have seen it. The first lady was out there recently looking at what they do. She came back. She said: "Wow. I have never seen anything like that," the training, you know, all of the training, and the power of the people, the men and women, the strength, the physical strength, the mental strength.
These are incredible people. These are very unique individuals.
REPORTER: You mentioned whimpering.
Did you hear that on your video hookup? You mentioned the whimpering of Baghdadi.
TRUMP: I don’t want to talk about it.
TRUMP: But he was screaming, crying and whimpering. And he was scared out of his mind.
Think of James Foley. Think of Kayla. Think of the things he did to Kayla, what he did to Foley and so many others.
And for those people that say, oh, isn’t this a little violent, think of, how many times have you seen men -- I think in all cases men for the most part, but in terms of this -- where you see the orange suits and you see the ocean and they’re beheaded?
Or how many of you got to see, because it was out there, the Jordanian pilot whose plane went down? They captured him. They put him in a cage and they set him on fire.
And the king of Jordan actually attacked very powerfully when that happened. They have never seen a thing like that. But he set him on fire.
This was al-Baghdadi. And you should never, ever hopefully see a thing like that again.
Now, there will be new people emerge, but this was the worst. Of -- of this particular world, this was the worst, probably in certain ways the smartest. He was also a coward. And he didn’t want to die.
But think of it. Everybody was out, and we were able to search him down and find him in the tunnel. We knew the tunnel existed. And that’s where he was.
REPORTER: And you have taken a lot of heat for the Syria pullout. Do you think this will change the standing, your standing...
TRUMP: Well, I don’t have a Syria pullout. I just don’t want to guard Turkey and Syria for the rest of our lives. I mean, I don’t want to do it. It’s very expensive. It’s very dangerous.
They have been fighting for centuries. I don’t want to have my people, 2,000 men and women, or 1,000, or 28. We had 28 guarding. I said, I don’t want them there anyway. I don’t want them.
Now, I will secure the oil. That happens to be in a certain part. But that’s tremendous money involved. I would love to -- you know, the oil in -- I mean, I will tell you a story in Iraq.
So, they spent -- President Bush went in. I strongly disagreed with it, even though it wasn’t my expertise at the time, but I had a -- I have a very good it wasn’t my expertise at the time, but I had a -- I have a very good instinct about things. They went in and I said that’s a tremendous mistake. And there were no weapons of mass destruction. It turned out I was right. I -- I was right for other reasons but it turned out, on top of everything else, they had no weapons of mass destruction.
Because that would be a reason to go in. But they had none. But I heard recently that Iraq, over the last number of years, actually discriminates against America in oil leases. In other words, some oil companies from other countries, after all we’ve done, have an advantage in Iraq for the oil.
I said keep the oil. Give them what they need, keep the oil. Why should we -- we go in, we lose thousands of lives, spend trillions of dollars, and our companies don’t even have an advantage in getting the oil leases. So I just tell you that story. That’s what I heard.
REPORTER: Did Gina Haspel play a role in this? Can you talk a little bit about that? And I saw your NSC counterterrorism director out in the hallway. Was there a role with NSC counterterrorism --
TRUMP: Yes. Everybody. Gina was great. Everybody played a role.
REPORTER: And --
TRUMP: Joe was great, Gina was great, they were all great.
REPORTER: Just to followup, did your Syria pullout -- did that generate the intelligence that led to this operation?
TRUMP: No. We were looking at this -- look, as I said, Steve, I’ve been looking at this -- I’m here almost three years. I’ve been looking at this for three years. They’d come in, sir, we have somebody under -- I said I don’t want somebody, I want al-Baghdadi. That’s the one I want. They’d say well, we have somebody else. I said, that’s great, fine, take them out, but I want al-Baghdadi. That’s who I want. I don’t want other people. And then I also wanted Hamza bin Laden, because he’s a young man, around 30, looks just like his father, tall, very handsome, and he was talking bad things just like his father. You know, if you read my book -- there’s a book just before the World Trade Center came down -- and I don’t get any credit for this, but that’s OK, I never do.
But here we are. I wrote a book. A really very successful book. And in that book, about a year before the World Trade Center was blown up, I said there’s somebody named Osama bin Laden, you better kill him or take him out, something to that effect, he’s big trouble. Now, I wasn’t in government. I was building buildings and doing what I did, but I always found it fascinating. But I saw this man, tall, handsome, very charismatic making horrible statements about wanting to destroy our country. And I’m writing a book. I think I wrote 12 books, all did very well. And I’m writing a book. World Trade Center had not come down. I think it was about -- if you check, it was about a year before the World Trade Center came down.
And I’m saying to people, take out Osama bin Laden, that nobody ever heard of. Nobody ever heard of. I mean, al-Baghdadi, everybody hears because he’s built this monster for a long time. But nobody ever heard of Osama bin Laden until really the World Trade Center. But about a year -- you’ll have to check, at a year, year and a half before the World Trade Center came down, the book came out. I was talking about Osama bin Laden. I said you have to kill him, you have to take him out. Nobody listened to me. And to this day I get people coming up to me, they said, you know what one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen about you is that you predicted that Osama bin Laden had to be killed before he knocked down the World Trade Center. It’s true.
Now, most of the press doesn’t want to write that but, you know, but it is true. If you go back, look at my book. I think it was “The America We Deserve”, I -- I made a prediction and I -- I -- let’s put it this way. If they would have listened to me, a lot of things would have been different.
REPORTER: Sir, can you talk about some of the difficult decisions you had along the way here in this operation, anything that weighed on you or that you had --
TRUMP: Well, just death. I mean, you know, I’m sending a large number of brilliant fighters -- these are the greatest fighters in the world. I’d rather let the generals tell you, but a large number. We had eight helicopters and we had many other ships and planes. It was a large group -- and again, this is a large group heading over very, very strong firepower areas, where -- that was decision one, will they make it.
And they made it. But they took fire but they made it. They didn’t take -- we don’t believe again it was nation fire. We believe it was individual group fire or gang fire, as they call it.
So they made it. So that was a big relief. Then they went in, they blasted their way in, you’ve heard. They blasted their way in so quickly, it was incredible. Because these building was quite powerful, strong.
They blasted their way in and then all hell broke loose. It’s incredible that nobody was killed or hurt. We had nobody even hurt. That’s why the dog was so great. We actually had a robot to go in the tunnel but we didn’t get it because we were tracking him very closely.
But we had a robot just in case because we were afraid he had a suicide vest on and if you get close to him and he blows it up, you’re going to die. You’re going to die. He had a very powerful suicide vest.
REPORTER: Did you make any decisions in the moment while troops were on the ground?
TRUMP: No. They had it just incredible. We were getting full reports on literally a minute-by-minute basis.
Sir, we just broke in. Sir, the wall is down. Sir, you know, we’ve captured. Sir, two people are coming out right now. Hands up. Fighters. Then the 11 children out. Numerous people were dead within the building that they killed.
Then it turned out they gave us a report.
Sir, there’s only one person in the building. We are sure he’s in the tunnel trying to escape. But it’s a dead end tunnel.
And it was brutal but it was over. And as I said, when he blew himself up, the tunnel collapsed on top of him, on top of everything. And his children. I mean, so he led his three children to death. So you know.
REPORTER: And then in the tunnel, that’s when the robot followed him in, too -- ?
TRUMP: The robot was set to but we didn’t hook it up because we were too -- they were moving too fast. We were moving fast. We weren’t 100 percent sure about the tunnel being dead ended. It’s possible that there could have been an escape hatch somewhere along that we didn’t know about.
So we moved very, very quickly. I mean, these people, they were chasing, yes. They were chasing. But again, because of a suicide vest you can’t get too close. Again, one of the reasons with the wives is if they have a suicide vest, you know, we have to be very careful. These vests are brutal, brutal. And they go for a long distance.
REPORTER: Have you spoken or will you speak to the families like the Foley family?
TRUMP: I’m calling the families now. It will be a pleasure to do that. The Foley family who I know, will be calling Kayla’s family. What he did to her was incredible. It’s a well known story and I’m not going to say it. But you know that. He kept her in captivity for a long period of time, he kept her in captivity, his personal captivity.
She was a beautiful woman, beautiful young woman, helped people. She was there to help people. And he saw her and he thought she was beautiful and he brought her into captivity for a long period of time and then he killed her. He was an animal. And he was a gutless animal.
Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Very great day for our country.