President Trump Jabs Retired Admiral McRaven for Not Finding Bin Laden Sooner

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In this Aug. 21, 2014, file photo, Retired U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven, the next chancellor of the University of Texas System, addresses the Texas Board of Regents, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
In this Aug. 21, 2014, file photo, Retired U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven, the next chancellor of the University of Texas System, addresses the Texas Board of Regents, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

President Donald disparaged the reputation Sunday of former Navy SEAL and retired Adm. William McRaven, calling him a "Hillary Clinton fan" who should have found and targeted terror mastermind Osama bin Laden sooner.

In an interview aired on the "Fox News Sunday" program, Trump said that McRaven, who organized and directed the May 2011 SEAL raid into Pakistan that killed Bin Laden missed signals that the al-Qaida leader was hiding in Pakistan all along.

In response, McRaven, a 37-year veteran of the military and a critic of what he views as Trump's attacks on the First Amendment, said in a statement to CNN's Jake Tapper: "I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else."

McRaven described himself in the statement as a "fan" of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and said he admired "all presidents" who "uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times."

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a CNN contributor and friend of McRaven, said on Twitter that McRaven "doesn't need anyone to defend him. He's lived a life of service to country and faced only the toughest challenges."

Hertling, also a frequent Trump critic, said Trump's words "are an attempt to further divide the country and politicize the military. We shouldn't allow it to work."

Trump's critique of the former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and Navy SEAL Team 6 came in response to questions from Fox host Chris Wallace on Trump's frequent criticisms of "fake news" and what he regards as slanted media coverage of the White House.

Wallace noted that McRaven, in an op-ed for Washington Post in August, called Trump's attacks on the media and former Obama administration officials "the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime."

"Excuse me, Hillary Clinton fan," Trump said McRaven in the interview.

"He's a Hillary Clinton backer, and an Obama backer," Trump added, going on to say that McRaven missed all the signs that bin Laden was living in a compound in Pakistan.

"Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that," Trump said. "Wouldn't it have been nice?"

"You know, living -- think of this -- living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan, in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don't know, I've seen nicer, but living in Pakistan right next to the military academy. Everybody in Pakistan knew [bin Laden] was there," Trump said.

Wallace asked: "You're not even going to give him [McRaven] credit for taking down bin Laden?"

Trump said he as president had taken actions against Pakistan that the Obama administration didn't.

"Look, there's news right there," Trump responded. "[Bin Laden] lived in Pakistan. We're supporting Pakistan. We give them $1.3 billion a year, which we don't give them any more by the way, I ended it. Because they don't do anything for us, they don't do a damn thing for us."

In a speech last February at the University of Texas, where he was chancellor, McRaven criticized Trump for calling journalists "the enemy of the American people."

McRaven has since stepped down from the university post, citing health reasons.

In an August opinion editorial for the Washington Post, McRaven accused Trump of using "McCarthy-era tactics" against journalists, and criticized Trump for lifting the security clearance of retired CIA Director John Brennan.

In his op-ed, McRaven wrote of Trump that, "like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs."

"A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself," McRaven wrote. "Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation."

With some exceptions, retired general officers typically refrain from political comment. But McRaven and other retired officers of his rank have occasionally been outspoken during Trump's presidency.

In a statement earlier this month, retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Obama administration, joined with other retired officers in criticizing Trump's deployment of active duty troops to the border with Mexico to stop the "caravan" of migrants attempting to gain entry.

Dempsey called Trump's action a "wasteful deployment of over-stretched soldiers and Marines."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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