FACT CHECK: Was Trump Golfing During The al-Baghdadi Raid?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

Palmer Report, a liberal political blog, claims President Donald Trump was golfing when the raid on Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound took place.

“Donald Trump caught GOLFING during U.S. military raid against Baghdadi and ISIS,” reads the headline.

Verdict: False

The president was not golfing, but rather present in the Situation Room at the time of the raid, according to a widely reported timeline of events. White House press pool reports also place him at the White House.

Fact Check:

Delta Force commandos executed a nighttime raid in northwestern Syria on Oct. 26 that resulted in the death of al-Baghdadi. The ISIS leader retreated to a tunnel beneath his compound and detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children. No Americans were killed in the operation.

Trump announced the result of the mission in a press conference the following day.

“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice,” said the president. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”

During a question-and-answer session with reporters at the press conference, Trump said he watched the raid from the Situation Room at the White House, noting it was “as though you were watching a movie.”

Some, including Palmer Report and late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, alleged that the president was playing golf at the time that the raid occurred. But, according to the timeline of events reported by numerous media outlets, this claim is untrue.

The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Reuters all place Trump at the White House at the time of the raid. So do White House pool reports. (RELATED: Has ‘70%’ Of ISIS Territory In Iraq Been Liberated?)

Trump did play a round of golf from approximately 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at a Trump Organization golf course in Virginia, but he returned to the White House shortly before 4:30 p.m., according to pool reports and media coverage. The Washington Post and Reuters reported that Trump was present in the Situation Room around 5 p.m., when the raid approximately began.

Indeed, a photograph released by the White House shows Trump and military advisors in the Situation Room, appearing to watch the raid unfold. Metadata from the picture dates it to 5:06 p.m., according to The Washington Post.

Helicopters carrying U.S. special forces operators departed from a military base in Iraq at roughly the same time — 5 p.m. EDT — and arrived at the al-Baghdadi compound around 6:10 p.m., according to several media outlets. By 7:15 p.m., al-Baghdadi’s remains had been recovered, and he was confirmed dead. The operation lasted approximately two hours, according to Reuters.

A tweet from Pete Souza, the former chief White House photographer under former President Barack Obama who took the now-famous bin Laden raid photograph, suggested the mission had taken place at 3:30 p.m., citing inaccurate early reports. That tweet, which garnered more than 38,000 likes, appears to have spurred the incorrect claim that Trump was playing golf at the time.

Souza later corrected his alleged timeline of events, but did not delete his original tweet containing the erroneous information.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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