President Pays a Surprise Christmas Visit to Troops in Iraq

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet members of the military at a hanger rally at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018.

By Al Perrotta Published on December 26, 2018

President Donald Trump has paid a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq. Accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, the President managed to escape Washington without notice for the secret, high-security trip.

This was Trump’s first visit to a war zone since becoming commander-in-chief.

According to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, the Trumps “traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas.”

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Trump’s visit comes days after his announced withdraw of 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. During his Iraq visit, he defended the decision to leave Syria, saying he’s able to make the troop withdraw because of U.S. military gains against ISIS. He also said the U.S. can attack ISIS in Syria from bases in Iraq if necessary. “If we see something happening with ISIS that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard they really won’t know what the h*** happened.”

The troops seemed to enjoy the visit.

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” Trump told them, “We’re respected as a nation again.”

The Trip

The President’s Iraq visit was done in complete secret, even as he was being criticized for never visiting a war zone while in office. The Trumps left the White House unnoticed, and boarded Air Force One inside a hanger at Joint Base Andrews. They then made the 11-hour flight on a darkened Air Force One with the lights off and window shades drawn.

The first clue Trump was on the move came when he ceased tweeting Tuesday night. Then Wednesday morning, as Politico reported, there was no sign of the president at the White House. No uniformed Marine standing outside the West Wing, the normal signal the president is in the Oval Office. “Soon,” said Politico, “amateur aircraft watchers were tracking a Boeing VC-25, the military plane that serves as Air Force One, flying over Europe.”

President Trump has now left Iraq for a destination unknown. A White House aide told Politico, Trump wasn’t expected back in Washington until Friday.

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