Trump’s Obsession With Diminishing Obama’s Role in Killing Bin Laden Isn’t New

Let’s look at the tweets.

President Barack Obama reads his statement on the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House on May 1, 2011.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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As President Donald Trump announced the death of ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi this morning, it was impossible to avoid comparisons to President Barack Obama’s May 2011 announcement that Navy SEALs had killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Trump was clearly thinking about that key moment of his predecessor’s presidency as he asserted that Baghdadi had been a threat “long before I took office” and that the ISIS leader had been “the biggest one we’ve ever captured.” He also repeated the false claim that he had identified bin Laden as a threat before 9/11.

Trump’s attempts to diminish Obama’s role in taking down bin Laden aren’t new. In the years following the raid, he frequently took to Twitter to suggest that Obama was taking too much credit for getting bin Laden. The very first mention came in November 2011, in which Trump appears to sanction the waterboarding of al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed for the sake of gathering intelligence on bin Laden. (The Obama administration had banned this form of torture; Trump has since tried to resurrect the practice.)

Later that year, Trump went on CNN to talk about why Obama didn’t “deserve credit for killing bin Laden.” In the spring of 2012, he reiterated that point on CNBC and in a tweet that cited an article from Breitbart

In September 2012, a Navy SEAL who had been part of the bin Laden mission published a tell-all autobiography that contradicted some details of the Obama administration’s telling of the raid. Trump called Obama’s “story a big lie.”

On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, Trump emphasized that a Navy SEAL killed bin Laden, setting up a new round of attacks on Obama as the 2012 election neared.   

After Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney congratulated Obama during a debate for “taking out Osama bin Laden,” Trump railed against the president for taking credit for bin Laden’s slaying. He declared that the debate was the first time Obama used “we” instead of “I” in describing the terrorist leader’s death. (It was not.)

And Trump also used the bin Laden raid to take a shot at Vice President Joe Biden, tweeting that “even the SEALs who killed bin Laden” didn’t like his future political rival. 

 

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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