When Donald Trump announced Sunday morning that U.S. Special Operations forces had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he reveled in the last moments of the “world’s number one terrorist leader.”
“He died like a dog, he died like a coward, he was whimpering, screaming and crying,” Trump said. “And frankly, I think it’s something that should be brought out.”
But two days after the announcement, it’s still unclear where Trump’s information on al-Baghdadi’s last moments came from. The Pentagon has been unable to confirm that al-Baghdadi was “whimpering, screaming and crying,” and the Daily Beast reports that senior administration officials have “no clue” where Trump got his information.
Five senior Trump administration officials who watched in real time as the president spoke on Sunday morning each told The Daily Beast that they had no idea where the president got the “whimpering and crying and screaming” detail. Two officials recounted how after they heard that on Sunday, they immediately began messaging each other questions and comments like, “uh where is he getting that?”
Trump himself wouldn’t say how he knew about al-Baghdadi’s tears Sunday. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said when a reporter asked if he could hear the sounds on his video feed. We now know the answer to that question. Trump couldn’t have heard al-Baghdadi because the live stream he watched from the Situation Room Saturday did not include audio.
General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday that he didn’t have any knowledge of the alleged crying and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the same. Both men gave Trump an out though, suggesting that the president may have spoken to the troops who carried out the mission and gotten the information from them.
“I know the president had planned to talk down to the unit and unit members,” Milley said. “But I don’t know what the source of that was. I assume it was talking directly to unit and unit members.”
So, did Trump talk to the Special Forces members who carried out the raid against al-Baghdadi and learn that he was bawling like a baby? When the Times asked White House officials Monday, they wouldn’t say.