WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took to social media on Monday to defend his earlier comments that the military should have killed Osama bin Laden sooner than it did, reframing the issue as an attack on former President Bill Clinton.
On Sunday, during a Fox News interview, Trump responded to criticism from retired Adm. William McRaven — who oversaw the special operations raid that killed bin Laden in 2011 — by dismissing him as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and adding that “wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”
When pressed as to whether he was denigrating McRaven’s service, Trump said that “everybody in Pakistan knew (bin Laden) was there” and said he took the step of ending foreign aid to that country when he came into office.
The comments drew more criticism for the commander in chief. Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., said they show that Trump “continues to ignore basic facts and demonstrate a lack of knowledge about our military and national security.”
“When the final operation which killed bin Laden took place, it was a great victory for our country,” he added. “Admiral McRaven was one of many brave leaders who took risks and contributed to the mission’s success.”
Roughly 24 hours after the interview aired, Trump wrote on Twitter that “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.”
He added that his administration was ending the practice of giving billions in international assistance to countries who “do nothing for us.”
McRaven has criticized Trump multiple times in the past, including in August, when he wrote an op-ed following Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. McRaven said it would be an honor to have his clearance revoked too, “so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”
After Sunday’s interview, McRaven told CNN that he did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else in the 2016 election.
“I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for,” he said in a statement. “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."
Trump’s Sunday comments struck a nerve with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who also used Twitter to criticize the American president.
"Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” he wrote in a series of tweets Monday morning.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.