Adm. William H. McRaven is a distinguished retired Navy SEAL and special ops commander who led the raids that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein and the death of Osama bin Laden. President Trump, however, dismissed McRaven in his interview Sunday with Fox News as an "Obama backer" and a "Hillary Clinton fan," reports the Washington Post. He adds: "Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?" He kept up the narrative on Monday. Here's what you need to know:
- It's not clear exactly what set Trump off on McRaven, but early last year, the military lifer said Trump's demonization of the media was "the greatest threat to democracy," and this past summer, he wrote an op-ed in which he asked Trump to revoke his security clearance after Trump yanked that of former CIA Director John Brennan.
- McRaven responded to Trump's remarks. "I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else," he tells CNN. "I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times." He's also sticking to his guns on the rest. "When you undermine the people's right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution," he notes.
- As for McRaven not finding bin Laden sooner, ex-CIA deputy director Michael Morell backs McRaven on Twitter, noting: "CIA did the 'finding.' McRaven's special operators did the 'getting.' They moved within days of President Obama giving the order."
- The Washington Post reports the RNC backed Trump Monday, tweeting, "Worth noting after recent comments: Retired Adm. William McRaven was reportedly on Hillary Clinton's short list for Vice President in 2016. He's been critical of President @realDonaldTrump— even dating back to the 2016 campaign. He's hardly a non-political figure."
- On Monday, Trump tweeted, "Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!.."
- He had this to say in a subsequent tweet: "....We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That’s ENDING!"
- As for Trump's book reference, Politico reports his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, contained one reference to bin Laden, and it's not presented as a warning but rather as an example of shortcomings in US foreign policy. CBS News has a larger excerpt, but here are the key sentences: "One day we're told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin-Laden is public enemy number one, and US jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it's on to a new enemy and new crisis."
- CNN reports Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan weighed in, and didn't come down on Trump's side. He tweeted, "Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before."
(McRaven has tried in the past to get more power
for special operations forces.)