National security and legal experts are expressing concern over a report revealing that then-First Lady Melania Trump had been present in the White House Situation Room during a "major military operation," according to a new book by former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.
Melania Trump in October 2019, "sat in and watched the U.S. raid that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a compound in Syria," The Hill reports Miller's book reveals. At the time, Miller was special assistant to the president for counterterrorism and transnational threats.
In addition to the First Lady, present in the Situation Room were President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.
“Her presence was unexpected, to say the least,” Miller wrote. “I wondered how it would play in the press if word got out that the first lady had popped in to watch a major military operation.”
It was the First Lady who suggested the administration promote the “hero dog” involved in the raid. That became a fiasco when it appeared later that President Trump, trying to play up the pup, either got the dog's gender wrong, or had the wrong dog in the Oval Office.
That debacle led The New Yorker's Masha Gessen to pen a piece on "Conan, the Gender-Fluid Hero Dog."
"Kellyanne Conway, a counsellor to the President, refused to commit to a gender for Conan," Gessen wrote. "Pressed by reporters on Tuesday, she said, 'I won’t do that, because then you’ll say that I was talking about somebody’s sex or gender, so I’m not doing that.'"
Larry Pfeiffer, who served as President Barack Obama's director of the White House Situation Room and previously as Chief of Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency, expressed outrage at the First Lady having been in the Situation Room during a critical mission.
"Hmmm…what would I have done if President Obama had brought Michelle into a sensitive meeting there? Don’t know. Never had to think about it cuz it NEVER would have happened," he said via Twitter.
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, now a professor of law, MSNBC legal contributor and a podcaster, responded saying: "Melania in the situation room, top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago that Trump knew were there & refused to return. Private meetings with Putin where Trump insisted translator's notes be destroyed. The Trump administration was a national security nightmare."
At Vanity Fair, politics correspondent Bess Levin asked, "What other overseas military operations did the former first lady play a role in?"
Levin also notes Trump's strong "disdain" for dogs, which made the Conan catastrophe such a farce.
She writes, "according to Miller, it was Melania who came up with the idea about how to tell the American people about the mission. 'You should talk about the dog,' Miller said she told the president. 'Everyone loves dogs.'"
"Everyone, of course, except Donald Trump," Levin notes, "who has a well-established disdain for animals in general and dogs in particular. (The only president in more than a century to live in the White House without a pet, Trump’s ex-wife Ivana wrote in her 2017 memoir that 'Donald was not a dog fan,' and that her poodle, Chappy, would 'bark at him territorially' whenever he got near her closet. Trump also has a long history of denigrating ex-employees and other perceived enemies by comparing them to dogs, tweeting that his enemies have 'choked like a dog,' been 'dumped like a dog,' been 'fired like a dog,' and, our personal favorite, been 'kicked out of the ABC News debate like a dog.')"
Another fiasco for the Trump White House that day was the photo (above) which was taken during or after the operation that led to al-Baghdadi's death. Some at the time noted it appeared staged, and an attempt to replicate the famous photo of President Barack Obama actually taken during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.