Pete Souza, the chief official White House photographer for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, suggested on Sunday that the Trump administration staged Saturday’s stern-faced Situation Room picture in the wake of a U.S. military raid that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The former director of the White House Photography Office called the timestamp of the photo into question Sunday morning, arguing that it is very unlikely President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several top administration officials and generals were actively monitoring the raid on Baghdadi’s compound when the photograph was taken Saturday in Washington.
Souza took the famous photograph of Obama and a shocked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton closely watching the Seal Team 6 raid on the Abbottabad compound that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The raid, as reported, took place at 3:30PM Washington time. The photo, as shown in the camera IPTC data, was taken at “17:05:24”. https://t.co/XV0MFfFiTt
— Pete Souza (@PeteSouza) October 27, 2019
“The raid, as reported, took place at 3:30PM Washington time. The photo, as shown in the camera IPTC data, was taken at ’17:05:24,'” Souza tweeted Sunday.
Souza was replying to a tweet from White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President, Dan Scavino Jr.
The Situation Room picture was taken Saturday by Chief Official White House Photographer for President Donald Trump, Shealah Craighead, former official photographer for First Lady Laura Bush.
The al-Baghdadi Situation Room photo Saturday showed Trump; Pence; National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien; Secretary of Defense Mark Esper; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley; and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, Deputy Director for Special Operations on the Joint Staff. All six men are shown in stiff, postured stances, giving squinted glares toward the camera.
The Trump photo is far more symmetrical and organized than the Obama White House Situation Room picture taken during the bin Laden compound raid in 2011. Clinton can be seen holding her mouth in shock and Defense Secretary Robert Gates crossing his arms in front of a jumble of administration officials and generals stand behind them.
Another Twitter user said it didn’t seem unreasonable that Trump and the generals “were still there 2 hours later waiting for the crew to return to the base,” when the picture was taken. “Sure, it’s possible,” Souza replied. In response to another now-deleted tweet, Souza continued acknowledging, that at the very least, it is possible the raid was still ongoing when Trump was photographed Saturday. “It’s entirely possible that the raid was still going on at 5:05 p.m. Before drawing definite conclusions about the photo, reporters need to nail down the actual timeline of the raid.”
Daily Kos Trending News Manager Jennifer Hayden noted that a Trump golf outing tracker showed the president was golfing at 3:33 p.m. Washington time, as the raid was unfolding.
As many of Trump’s most frequent supporters took to social media to congratulate Trump for the successful U.S. special operations mission, many Twitter users resurfaced a 2012 tweet from Trump after then-President Barack Obama brought up in a presidential debate that his administration had taken out Osama bin Laden, with Trump saying that Obama doesn’t deserve credit for the kill.
“Stop congratulating Obama for killing Bin Laden,” Trump wrote at the time. “The Navy Seals killed Bin Laden.”
Stop congratulating Obama for killing Bin Laden. The Navy Seals killed Bin Laden. #debate
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2012