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Trump accuses New York Times of foiling plot to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

White House shake-up

President Trump weighed in on a number of hot-button topics in a string of tweets Saturday morning, the day after naming a new White House communications director and accepting the resignation of press secretary Sean Spicer.

The president took aim at some familiar targets: the "Amazon Washington Post," leaks, Hillary Clinton, "Special Council" Robert Mueller and others. 

But one missive in particular left observers scratching their heads. In a cryptic tweet, Mr. Trump accused "the Failing New York Times" of foiling an attempt to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

While Mr. Trump did not provide more detail about the accusation, the tweet came about 20 minutes after a segment about leaks aired on Fox News' "Fox and Friends." At one point, the chyron read "NYT FOILS U.S. ATTEMPT TO TAKE OUT AL-BAGHDADI." 

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Fox News aired a segment about leaks shortly before Mr. Trump's tweet. Fox News

Mr. Trump is an avid consumer of cable news. His hiring of communications director Anthony Scaramucci was reportedly based in part on Scaramucci's performance in defending the administration on television.

In the Fox segment early Saturday, the anchor cited comments made by the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado

During an appearance onstage with Fox News' Catherine Herridge on Friday, Gen. Raymond Thomas revealed the U.S. had valuable intelligence about the ISIS leader's whereabouts in 2015 until "there were some leaks about what we were up to."

Thomas said U.S. forces raided a compound housing ISIS oil minister Abu Sayyaf in 2015, killing him in the operation. However, special forces captured his wife, who "gave us a treasure trove of information about where she had just been with Baghdadi in Raqqa," he said.

"Unfortunately it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and then he went dead," Thomas said. "That's a challenge we have in terms of where and how our tactics and procedures are discussed openly."

Thomas was apparently referring to a story in the New York Times on June 8, 2015, that carried the headline "A Raid on ISIS Yields a Trove of Intelligence." Written by Eric Schmitt, the story reported that U.S. intelligence officials had seized a wealth of data that gave them insight into "how the organization's shadowy leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, operates and tries to avoid being tracked by coalition forces."

The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Trump's tweet.

U.S. officials believe al-Baghdadi is still alive, despite Syrian and Russian reports of his death. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday said he believes al-Baghdadi continues to play a role in the ISIS leadership.

"I think Baghdadi is alive, I think he's alive and I'll believe otherwise when we know we've killed him, but we're going after him," Mattis said. "We assume he is alive."  

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