Trump's secret visit to Iraq was muddled by a few security and legal issues

Trump signs a campaign hat in Iraq
(Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump's politically astute post-Christmas visit to Iraq was typically unusual, and that includes operational security. Trump highlighted the dangers of a president traveling to a conflict zone, telling reporters he "had concerns about the institution of the presidency — not for myself personally" — and noted that he flew in and out of Iraq "in the darkened plane with all the windows closed with no light anywhere — pitch black." Still, hours before White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders revealed that Trump was in Iraq, several amateur European plane spotters had divined that the president was heading to the Middle East and shared that information — including a photo of Air Force One flying over England — on social media.

Along with Sanders and first lady Melania Trump, Trump was accompanied by social media director Dan Scavino, senior adviser Stephen Miller, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and the first lady's chief of staff and press secretary. Outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over Trump's withdrawal from Syria, was not on the trip, nor were any Cabinet members or lawmakers. In a video Trump posted to Twitter right after leaving Iraq, his press team perhaps inadvertently revealed that SEAL Team Five is in Iraq and showed the faces of the special-ops unit, Newsweek notes.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.