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President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump went to Iraq today to pay a visit to U.S. military personnel there, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed via Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
President Trump and the First Lady 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. pic.twitter.com/s2hntnRwpw— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) December 26, 2018
But speculation was flying high hours earlier that he was on his way to the Middle East, thanks to numerous aircraft trackers on Twitter.
@CivMilAir—which tracks flights around the world—shared these suspicions in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
Now, I'm not saying Trump is currently heading to the Middle East to visit troops. BUT...— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) December 26, 2018
There's been some interesting aircraft movements the last couple of days. Some I've already tweeted... And a VC-25A has been reported over the UK earlier today.
Watch this space! 😌
VC-25A is the Air Force designation for the aircraft. When carrying the president, it goes by the call sign Air Force One. However, today it used RCH358.
Images of it were also spotted over England, thanks to its iconic baby blue paint job.
Reported over the UK earlier today. Callsign & unknown hex confirmed on my own receiver logs. 👇— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) December 26, 2018
'RCH358' VC-25 USAF - over Yorkshire - taken from Chapeltown South Yorks Boxing Day 2018https://t.co/9sYjOnIcIG @ETEJSpotter 👍 pic.twitter.com/wWpp4FPpz8
Nothing for around 3 hours now on 'RCH358'. Could have landed for fuel, swapped hex codes to another ID, gone out of receiver coverage or simply switched off the transponder. 🤷♂️— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) December 26, 2018
Also, still no confirmation of what it was, who was on board or if it was indeed AF1.
Just to add to the speculation. 😂 From one of the WH press pool...— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) December 26, 2018
'Good morning on this Fifth Day of the Partial Government Shutdown.'
'For those interested: No, as of five minutes ago, there was no Marine posted outside the West Wing.'
Half an hour ago I tracked an unknown aircraft with callsign RCH358 (AE47C4). Visual confirmation suggests it's one of only two VC-25A in the world. Maybe Trump visiting troops and they cover up the fact by implying it's a RCH cargo flight? @CivMilAir @ferchtel @RCH648 @Gerjon_ pic.twitter.com/maT3l1IfWz— Nick (@ETEJSpotter) December 26, 2018
The picture was traced back to Alan Meloy on Flickr.
Sources telling me Trump’s on his way to visit troops—possibly in Iraq. Better late than never. But also a bit troubling that so many folks seem to already know about this if it hasn’t happened already. #OpSec anyone?— Paul (PJ) Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) December 26, 2018
The surprise trip came a day after it was noted across the media that the president broke a fifteen-year-long tradition by not visiting any military personnel around Christmas, although he did call service members yesterday, and visited wounded troops at Walter Reed last year.
Trump shared the news of his visit on Twitter.
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque