House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday called on the White House to brief lawmakers on the raid that targeted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, noting that President Trump had informed Russia of the military operation before telling congressional leadership.
U.S. presidents typically follow the protocol of contacting congressional leaders, regardless of their political party, when a high-level military operation is conducted.
“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,” Pelosi said. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”
Pelosi’s statement had echoes of a remark she had made during a fiery confrontation with Trump at the White House earlier this month. She asked him why “all roads lead to Putin,” as she stood up and pointed a finger at Trump before leaving the meeting.
In his remarks Sunday, Trump said the United States had informed Russia of the mission because U.S. forces were going to fly over certain “Russia-held areas.” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, was quoted by Russian state media as saying that his ministry has “no reliable information” about the raid.
Trump also said he had contacted two Senate Republicans, Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.) and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), ahead of his announcement in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. He called Burr “a great gentleman” and Graham “a very strong hawk” who “agrees with what we’re doing now.”
Asked whether he had informed Pelosi, Trump replied, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t do that. I wanted to make sure this kept secret. I don’t want to have men lost, and women. I don’t want to have people lost.”
At another point in his remarks, Trump said he was “going to notify [congressional leaders] last night, but we decided not to do that, because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.”
“Washington is a leaking machine,” he said. “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 firepower like you wouldn’t believe.”
Trump did not cite evidence for his accusation that Pelosi would have leaked details of the raid. Pelosi served on the House Intelligence Committee for more than 20 years and has not been known to reveal sensitive information. Last weekend, she led a high-level congressional delegation to Afghanistan and did not publicly disclose the trip until the group had returned.
In an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Trump did not contact Pelosi, Schiff or any of the other congressional leaders with whom the White House typically shares information on national security and intelligence matters.
“In terms of notifying the Gang of Eight, that wasn’t done,” Schiff said, referring to the House speaker and minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Schiff said Trump made “a mistake” by not informing congressional leaders of the raid, although he noted that such notifications are “frankly, more important when things go wrong.” The executive branch usually informs the Gang of Eight, Schiff said, so that if a mission goes awry, the White House can at least say that Congress was made aware of the risks and was given the opportunity to provide feedback.
Susan E. Rice, who was national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said Sunday that the Obama administration typically sought to keep the Gang of Eight informed “as a matter of courtesy.”
In May 2011, for instance, when Osama bin Laden was killed, then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) told reporters that the Obama administration had been keeping him abreast of developments over several months.
“I’ve been talking to Mr. Panetta over these four months and over this weekend,” Rogers said, referring to then-CIA Director Leon Panetta. “So we knew when the president authorized it, and we had some discussions that it was likely to happen, and then got a call after it happened.”
Other Democratic leaders on Sunday called for the White House to answer lawmakers’ questions.
“New Yorkers know all too well the destruction a small group of terrorists thousands of miles overseas can cause from so far away,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
He added that he looks forward to a briefing about the raid and the administration’s next steps against the Islamic State.