NEW YORK (Reuters) – Retired Navy Admiral and former U.S. special operations chief William McRaven has no regrets about criticizing President Donald Trump, though he said on Wednesday that friends in the military faulted him for disparaging the commander-in-chief.
McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has taken on Trump on more than one occasion, laying into the president in 2017 for calling the press the “enemy of the people.”
Then last year, after Trump revoked the security clearance former CIA Director John Brennan, a critic of the president, McRaven spoke out again, writing in a Washington Post opinion piece that he would “consider it an honor” if the president were to pull his clearance as well.
“When I find something that in my heart I just can’t live with, I’ve got to look myself in the mirror every morning and I’m going to stand up and do what I think is right and accept the criticism,” McRaven told a Reuters Newsmakers forum in New York on Wednesday.
McRaven also wrote that Trump had “embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”
Those harsh words drew censure from some of McRaven’s friends from his 37 years in the military who felt the retired admiral had overstepped his bounds.
“That is fair criticism. You’ve got to be prepared to listen to your critics because historically retired military officers, particularly senior officers, don’t make a point of speaking up against the commander-in-chief,” McRaven said.
In response to the Washington Post dig, Trump dismissed McRaven in a Fox News interview as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer” who should have captured bin Laden sooner.
Interviewed on stage by Reuters Editor-at-Large Sir Harold Evans, McRaven said that “in general” he agreed that officers should refrain from blasting the president, but he felt duty-bound.
A year earlier, McRaven said Trump’s hostility toward the news media “may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” That came from a man who oversaw not just the killing of bin Laden but also the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
McRaven was also responsible for the 2009 rescue at sea of commercial Captain Richard Phillips, who had been taken by Somali pirates.
McRaven recounts those stories in his new book “Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.”
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Lisa Shumaker