The White House released a photo showing US President Trump and a number of US officials allegedly watching as US Special Operations forces approach the compound of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, Trump announced that the long-planned raid had resulted in Baghdadi’s death.
“President @realDonaldTrump watches as US Special Operations forces close in on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the White House tweeted.
In the photo, Trump is seen surrounded by a number of top US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Defence Secretary Mark T. Esper and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
The photo evokes memories of a similar picture from 2011 showing US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and others watching the US Navy Seal Team 6 raid on Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
A tweet by Pete Souza, Obama’s photographer, implied that the photo was staged.
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
In his tweet, Souza claimed that, “as reported,” the raid began at 3:30 p.m. Washington time while the photo timestamp says the image was taken at 17:05:24, local Washington DC time, over 90 minutes after the raid.
While Souza’s claim was quickly weaponized by angry Twitter users, the claim appears to be wrong, as it contradicts data provided by Trump during his Sunday announcement.
"We were pretty much gathered at five o'clock yesterday," Trump said. "We gathered more or less at five. The attack started moments after that.
Many angry commenters under Souza’s tweet referred to reports that Trump was at his golf course at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, suggesting that Trump was ‘golfing’ while US soldiers were conducting the raid in Syria’s Idlib. There were also those who found photo’s odd symmetry and unplugged network cables suspicious, too.
In a later tweet, Souza declined that had he claimed the photo was “staged.” Citing Trump's comments that the raid took place at 5 p.m., he then said, “it's definitely possible the photo was taken during the raid.”
Just to be clear, I didn't say it was staged. Trump himself said he didn't arrive to the Situation Room until "around 5pm". So it's definitely possible the photo was taken during the raid. https://t.co/h3yx8BbLAT— Pete Souza (@PeteSouza) October 27, 2019
*Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia.