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Trump says ‘of course’ the U.S. should have caught bin Laden sooner

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 11/19/2018 Felicia Sonmez
U.S. President Donald Trump walks off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House returning from California after viewing damage from that state's wildfires on November 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. © Tasos Katopodis-Pool/Getty Images U.S. President Donald Trump walks off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House returning from California after viewing damage from that state's wildfires on November 18, 2018 in Washington, DC.

President Trump on Monday doubled down on his assertion that the United States should have caught Osama bin Laden more quickly, claiming in a tweet that he had warned of the al-Qaeda leader in his book before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Trump made a single passing reference to bin Laden in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve.” But that reference falls short of his repeated claims, as far back as 2015, that he predicted that bin Laden was going to attack the United States.

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“Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “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!”

In a follow-up tweet, he said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were among “many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return.”

“That’s ENDING!” he said.

Trump “has repeatedly and falsely claimed” that he predicted bin Laden was going to attack the United States and that the United States needed to “take him out,” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker wrote in 2015.

Trump’s tweets came one day after a “Fox News Sunday” interview in which the president escalated a fight with Adm. William H. McRaven, a retired Navy SEAL and Special Operations commander who oversaw the 2011 killing of bin Laden.

McRaven had criticized Trump for describing the news media as the “enemy of the people.”

In response, Trump dismissed McRaven during the Fox News interview as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer” before suggesting that the four-star admiral, who recently left his post as chancellor of the University of Texas amid a battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, should have caught bin Laden more quickly.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice?” Trump said. He added that bin Laden had been “living in Pakistan right next to the military academy; everybody in Pakistan knew he was there.”

Trump suspended security aid to Pakistan earlier this year and accused the country’s leaders of “lies and deceit.” The president’s latest criticism of the longtime U.S. military ally drew a rebuke from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said on Twitter on Monday morning that the United States was seeking to make Pakistan “a scapegoat for their failures.”

Trump’s criticism of McRaven also triggered outrage among some current and former military and intelligence officials. On Sunday night, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell pointed out that it was the CIA rather than McRaven’s forces that was responsible for “finding” bin Laden.

Retired Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal defended McRaven in a CNN interview Monday in which he said that Trump was “simply wrong” and that personal attacks on anyone are not warranted.

“I know Bill McRaven and was honored to serve alongside him,” McChrystal said, calling Trump’s comments “symptomatic” of the country’s crisis in leadership.

The Republican National Committee rallied in Trump’s defense Monday afternoon.

“Worth noting after recent comments: Retired Adm. William McRaven was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s short list for Vice President in 2016,” the RNC said in a tweet. “He’s been critical of President @realDonaldTrump— even dating back to the 2016 campaign. He’s hardly a non-political figure.”

McRaven reportedly also was on Trump’s short­list for national security adviser during the presidential transition in 2017.

felicia.sonmez@washpost.com

Paul Sonne and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

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