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This morning President Trump announced that US forces had successfully killed ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. While Democrats are of course glad that he is gone, they have taken issue with the fact that Trump told some other nations such as Russia and some Republicans beforehand, but told no Democrats, especially Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. Trump's explanation was that he feared the information would get leaked and that the soldiers could die because of it, so he only told people who he trusted.

So why is it a big deal that Trump didn't tell any Democrats? Why would they need to know? What would they need to do that they could only do if they knew?

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    One possible point of concern, if what you are saying is correct, would be that the people Trump trusted included the leadership of a somewhat hostile foreign government, but none of his political opponents and even not everyone in his own party. – Obie 2.0 Oct 27 '19 at 19:07
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    @Obie2.0 That's true, although one could also argue that it says more about Democrats than it does him, although I'm not necessarily arguing that. – DJ Spicy Deluxe Oct 27 '19 at 19:10
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    As this question is formulated it is basically asking the answers to decide if Trump or the Democrats are right about making this an issue. As such, I'm voting to close as primarily opinion based. If you rephrase this question from some clear perspective, e.g. why do the Democrats say they should have been informed, it could admit non-opinionated answers. (Likewise you could ask for Trump's perspective why he didn't inform them.) Both of those viewpoints however are detailed in the article you linked, so that reinforces my opinion that you're asking here "who is right?" – Fizz Oct 27 '19 at 21:12
  • There are a few more quotes in edition.cnn.com/2019/10/27/politics/… including one from Schiff (not quoted in the Fox News piece you linked, although Pelosi was quoted by Fox and you basically got her statement quoted again to you in tim's an answer). – Fizz Oct 27 '19 at 21:25
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    I'm not sure that editing this question to such a degree (it's now asking about a law governing this) is a good idea. It renders both answers below off-topic. Whoever made those edits (and it's not the OP) is better off asking that question separately. – Fizz Oct 28 '19 at 7:40
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It's not a big deal because there are only soft, legal requirements that, in this instance are easily justifiably skirted, to tell Congress before such a raid.

Federal law states that the President need only inform Congress, through statement (oral or written), of the reasons in a timely manner after the act. There is no criteria for accessing Presidential reasons for non-disclosure as valid or not. Emphasis mine.

(c) Timing of reports; access to finding

(1) The President shall ensure that any finding approved pursuant to subsection (a) shall be reported in writing to the congressional intelligence committees as soon as possible after such approval and before the initiation of the covert action authorized by the finding, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2) and paragraph (3).

(2) If the President determines that it is essential to limit access to the finding to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States, the finding may be reported to the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and such other member or members of the congressional leadership as may be included by the President.

(3) Whenever a finding is not reported pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2) of this section, the President shall fully inform the congressional intelligence committees in a timely fashion and shall provide a statement of the reasons for not giving prior notice.

President Donald Trump did have this to say about Adam Schiff.

"Adam Schiff is the biggest leaker in Washington. You know that. I know that. We all know that. I've watched Adam Schiff leak. He's a corrupt politician. He's a leaker like nobody has ever seen before.

... And

“We notified some," the president said. "Others are being notified now as I speak. We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I've never seen before. There's nothing — there's no country in the world that leaks like we do, and Washington is a leaking machine."

In 2017 a leak scuttled a great lead on Bagdhadi according to Gen. Tony Thomas. So there is precedent for Trump's concern.

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    The question was reverted to its original form (which didn't mention the legal aspect). Your answer still works, though. I just added a sentence to the beginning to explain why the legal issue is still relevant. Hopefully I didn't misrepresent your views by saying that it's not a big deal. – divibisan Oct 28 '19 at 21:53
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    @poloholeset that's only true if Schiff is at least honorable as the Russians, whom we needed to talk with to avoid escalation in a war zone. The President with cause deemed he wasn't. – K Dog Oct 29 '19 at 10:40
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    @PoloHoleSet you mention that "he ... [gave] a heads up to foreign powers with adversarial interests," but that mischaracterizes what actually happened. The US informed the Turkish military that a mission would be carried out in the area to avoid conflict in that area during the Turkish build-up in the region, but gave nothing about the target. Iraq and Syrian Kurds knew that a mission would eventually happen, since they participated in the intelligence gathering, but nothing about the raid itself as it was planned. – gormadoc Oct 31 '19 at 22:04
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    @PoloHoleSet They are not complaining that they didn't know a raid was being planned, they were complaining that they weren't notified of "this raid" (their own specification) beforehand. The law does not require them to be informed of the raid itself or the timing so long as a finding had already been submitted and nothing has substantially changed. The raid was carried out when it was because things were going to substantially change, not that I believe they did it to avoid submitting a new finding. They did not complain that they did not receive a finding of the action. – gormadoc Nov 1 '19 at 15:36
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    @gormadoc Where is it in the law involved that says "if he believes, or even just states he believes, that somebody who would normally need to be informed will leak, he doesn't have to tell them"? The law I saw states that in "extraordinary circumstances... the finding may be reported to the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the SPEAKER and minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and such other member or members of the congressional leadership as may be included by the President." – PurpleThinker Nov 5 '19 at 9:39
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Pelosi said this about the raid:

Americans salute the heroism, dedication and skill of our military and our intelligence professionals and acknowledge the work of our partners in the region. [...]

The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top Congressional Leadership were notified of in advance, and on the Administration’s overall strategy in the region. Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”

Specifically, this is one request and one complaint:

  • Request: The House should be briefed now that the raid has taken place
  • Complaint: Russia was notified of the raid beforehand, but not the House

This doesn't necessarily mean that Pelosi or the House needed to be informed before the raid, if it was determined that the information is on a need to know basis.

Informing an adversary of the US but not a branch of the US government on the other hand might upset Democrats, especially given the history between Trump and Russia, as well as Trumps insinuation that the House - not Russia - would leak information which may damage national security.

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    The U.S. had to fly over Russian controlled airspace. Of course they were notified beforehand. – K Dog Oct 27 '19 at 20:03
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    FWIW, Trump said he didn't notify Congress (until after the raid was over) because he was afraid of leaks. See politics.stackexchange.com/questions/47153/… – Fizz Oct 27 '19 at 20:17
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    @Fizz I'm not a fan of completely rewriting questions like this (now it seems more appropriate for law.SE). The question also seems more limited than before (Pelosi could take issue with how this was handled even if there is no law, so this now seems like a leading question). I would have gone with a change like "Why did the Democrats/Pelosi take issue with [...]", which seems on-topic and more in line with OPs intent. If this edit does stay, I'll probably delete my answer in time. – tim Oct 28 '19 at 7:44
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    @tim: I agree and I've raise the issue on politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4127/… – Fizz Oct 28 '19 at 7:56
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    @KDog As some national security types have pointed out, the raid required "deconfliction," not necessarily "notification." That is, "you're going to be seeing some aircraft on this vector; they're ours, don't shoot at them" is necessary. – jeffronicus Oct 28 '19 at 15:00
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Without attempting to apportion blame, it does show that trust between the Executive and Congressional leaders of the opposing party has been lost to an extraordinary degree.

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Congress is a co-equal branch of government, with oversight responsibility over the Executive Branch, and the branch with sole power to declare war.

The President is further required, by law, to keep Congress informed of such actions.

To the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters, the Director of National Intelligence and the heads of all departments, agencies, and entities of the United States Government involved in a covert action—

(1) shall keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed of all covert actions which are the responsibility of, are engaged in by, or are carried out for or on behalf of, any department, agency, or entity of the United States Government, including significant failures; and

(2) shall furnish to the congressional intelligence committees any information or material concerning covert actions which is in the possession, custody, or control of any department, agency, or entity of the United States Government and which is requested by either of the congressional intelligence committees in order to carry out its authorized responsibilities.

(c) Timing of reports; access to finding (1) The President shall ensure that any finding approved pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall be reported to the congressional intelligence committees as soon as possible after such approval and before the initiation of the covert action authorized by the finding, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2) and paragraph (3).

(2) If the President determines that it is essential to limit access to the finding to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States, the finding may be reported to the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and such other member or members of the congressional leadership as may be included by the President.

(3) Whenever a finding is not reported pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2) of this section,1 the President shall fully inform the congressional intelligence committees in a timely fashion and shall provide a statement of the reasons for not giving prior notice.

(4) In a case under paragraph (1), (2), or (3), a copy of the finding, signed by the President, shall be provided to the chairman of each congressional intelligence committee. When access to a finding is limited to the Members of Congress specified in paragraph (2), a statement of the reasons for limiting such access shall also be provided.

50 U.S.C. 413b - Presidential approval and reporting of covert actions

You can see that normal notification is to inform the full intelligence committees in both houses, but when security is a concern, notification of select leadership can be done. This is the route Obama took with the raid that killed bin Laden.

Before the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration did give advance word to the top two Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate as well as the four leaders of the congressional intelligence committees.

Time.com: Speaker Pelosi Says White House Kept Congress in the Dark on al-Baghdadi Raid, But Informed Russia

It is notable that Trump did see fit to inform certain members he views a loyal allies, politically.

Trump did speak with Republican Senators Richard Burr and Lindsay Graham. Trump said Graham has “been very much involved in this subject” and that he spoke with Burr Sunday morning.

CNBC: Trump did not brief Pelosi and other top congressional leaders on Baghdadi raid

While it is expected that different branches and parties will come into disagreement and some degree of political conflict over issues and process, ultimately, it is a model of shared governing responsibility. Excluding only one party, a party that controls one of the houses of Congress, in an equal branch of government in this manner basically signals the raising of petty partisan concerns over the duties and responsibilities of governing. This is especially true when there is a legal requirement for notification.

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    -1. You read the other question and know that the Obama administration's lawyers reached the opinion that they were not required to notify Congress in advance, but Panetta did so anyway, apparently without the White House's permission. As such, this answer is highly disingenuous. And it's especially disingenuous, if not outright false, to say, "This is the route Obama took," when there's no evidence Obama authorized Panetta to take that route and there are sources saying that he did not. – reirab Oct 30 '19 at 20:19
  • @reirab - First of all, that was a special cadre of lawyers specifically tasked to examine and analyze the legal ramifications of all possible options.They made zero recommendations, and there is no indication that each and every item they deemed possible was automatically implemented. Their opinion that he could probably get away with not informing Congress in no way was a policy recommendation.That's a fundamentally phony framing of the situation. I commented on that link, and I rebutted it. The constant contact and updates, for months before, with the ranking GOP member is absolutely proof. – PoloHoleSet Oct 30 '19 at 21:04
  • I never said anything about them making recommendations. As you said, they were tasked to analyze the legal options of the situation. And they reached the legal conclusion that informing the members of Congress in advance was not required, which is quite contrary to the implications of your present answer. – reirab Oct 30 '19 at 21:18
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    I'm not the one writing the answer. How do you make the leap from "His lawyers specifically tasked to determine whether the notification was required determined that it was not" to "he authorized telling Congress because he was legally required to?" Your answer is stating that it is a legal requirement and Obama acted in accordance with that requirement when his administration determined that it was not a legal requirement. Leaving that part out is misleading at best. – reirab Oct 30 '19 at 21:34
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    You also seem to be massively overstating what Rogers said. From the the CRS document, "The chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees have stated that they were briefed on OBL’s whereabouts during the past few months including, according to Representative Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, some details regarding the Abbottabad compound." Saying they were briefed on "OBL's whereabouts" "including some details regarding the Abbottabad compound" is not the same as saying they were briefed on the details of the planned operation to kill him. – reirab Oct 30 '19 at 21:41
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So why is it a big deal that Trump didn't tell any Democrats?

It isn't, but some try to make it a big deal.

A large part of the Democratic Party is so anti-Trump nowadays that when the Trump administration reaches any achievement, they have to find something to complain about. They just can't admit to any success.

Compare the current reactions to how Bush reacted when Obama called him to inform Bush of Osama Bin Laden's death.

Bush said Obama described in detail the secret mission to raid bin Laden's Pakistani compound and the decision he made to put the plan into motion. He told Obama, "Good call."

Just saying those words - "Good call" - and leaving it at that, seems too hard nowadays.

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    Is there any evidence Trump has called former presidents to describe this mission to them and get their reaction? Otherwise this seems a false analogy. – Jontia Oct 27 '19 at 21:54
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    GW Bush and the Obama are friends. And two respected US Presidents who have led the country in war can likely understand eachother in ways few others could. cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/… Not comparable to characters such as Trump and Pelosi (one of whom is afterall trying to impeach the other). – Duke Bouvier Oct 27 '19 at 23:03
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    So Bush, a man who was no longer in office, was notified by Obama after the fact. You are comparing this to Trump not notifying senior congressional figures or congressional intelligence committees, people who Obama's administration did notify prior to the raid on Bin Laden's compound. – Tal Oct 28 '19 at 13:58
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    @Tal No, they didn't. They CIA did tell some members of Congress without the White House's approval, though. – reirab Oct 28 '19 at 21:29
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    @PoloHoleSet Apparently their legal opinion was that they were not required to brief members of Congress before the fact, "Mr. Preston wrote a memo addressing when the administration had to alert congressional leaders under a statute governing covert actions. Given the circumstances, the lawyers decided that the administration would be legally justified in delaying notification until after the raid." It is also explicitly stated that Panetta told the members of Congress, "without White House permission." – reirab Oct 30 '19 at 19:57

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