In what appears to be an effort by President Trump to avoid leaks by his political opponents, he snubbed the top intelligence Democrats for a second time in recent months prior the deadly U.S. airstrike Thursday in Iraq that led to the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
U.S. Democratic lawmakers and officials long frustrated Israel when it came to policy stances on Iran during the Obama era.
In 2014, when the administration was in negotiations with the Islamic Republic to come to an agreement on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel had assassinated top Iranian nuclear scientists, which did not sit well with the White House.
One year later, though, when the Israelis attempted to orchestrate an assassination of Soleimani, reports Haaretz, according to a 2018 report, the Obama administration notified Iranian leadership that Israel was watching and following the Iranian commander.
Trust between Trump and Democratic leaders appears to have collapsed as their relations have largely revolved around investigations of the Trump administration and an impeachment that the President has deemed unfair and triggered by a “so-called whistleblower.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the president Friday for not briefing them before the strike.
“I’m a member of the Gang of Eight, which is typically briefed in advance of operations of this level of significance. We were not,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. He added, “If he plans a large increase in troops and potential hostility over a longer time, the administration will require congressional approval and the approval of the American people,” he warned.
Back in October, Schumer and Pelosi similarly complained that both were kept out of the loop when the U.S. engaged in a deadly raid that resulted in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
President Trump defended his decision not to tell Pelosi, Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner of the raid at the time saying:
“We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before,” Trump said.
He went on to say, “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 the — 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’s time in office, since he first came to the White House, has become defined by routine leaks to the media.
In 2017, under the direction of Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the majority committee staff studied media leaks between January 20, 2017, and May 25, 2017. —President Trump’s first 126 days in office.
The committee found that the Trump administration faced 125 leaked stories—one leak a day— with information “that is potentially damaging to national security under the standards established in a 2009 Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama.”
Additionally, the committee described certain leaks that damaged national security and surged about seven times faster under President Trump than during President Obama’s and President George W. Bush’s first 126 days in office.
While most of the leaks examined were related to the Russia investigation, the workings of a secret surveillance court, other leaks revealed potentially sensitive intelligence on U.S. adversaries or possible military plans against them. One leak, was related to a probe of a terrorist attack which caused a diplomatic incident between the United States and a close ally.
While the Bush White House had 9 national security leaks to the media and the Obama White House experienced 8 in the first 126 days of the presidents’ administrations, President Trump experienced 62 national security leaks from his administration to the press in his first 126 days.
“Almost all of the stories leaked during President Trump’s first 126 days were about the President or his administration. In contrast, only half of the stories leaked during the comparable period of the Obama administration were about President Obama or his administration; the other half concerned President Bush and his anti-terrorism tactics,” the committee said.