WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: U.S. President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump walk toward Marine One while departing from the White House, on...
Mark Wilson

Questions surrounding Trump’s Yemen raid linger

Updated
It’s been about a month since Donald Trump ordered his first military raid as president, which tragically turned deadly. As we’ve discussed, the plan was to acquire intelligence and equipment at an al Qaeda camp in Yemen, but the mission quickly went sideways: Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a member of SEAL Team 6, was killed; several other Americans were injured; and by the end of the operation, multiple civilians, including children, were dead.

It’s been described as a mission in which “almost everything went wrong,” a dynamic made more complicated by U.S. military officials suggesting to Reuters that Trump approved the mission “without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.”

Owens’ father, Bill, told the Miami Herald that he still has questions about what happened and hopes an inquiry will produce answers.
Trump administration officials have called the mission a success, saying they had seized important intelligence information. They have also criticized detractors of the raid, saying those who question its success dishonor Ryan Owens’ memory. His father, however, believes just the opposite.

“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” said the elder Owens, pointing to Trump’s sharp words directed at the mission’s critics, including Sen. John McCain.

“I want an investigation…. The government owes my son an investigation,” he said.
Bill Owens, himself a veteran, was on hand when his son’s remains arrived at Dover Air Force Base. Told before the plane landed that the president was en route, he told the chaplain, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him.” He went on to tell the Miami Herald, “I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him.”

The White House’s rhetoric about what transpired in Yemen, at least thus far, has been discouraging. Team Trump’s efforts to blame the raid on the Obama administration, for example, has unraveled under scrutiny. Making matters worse, White House officials, including Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer, have made multiple efforts to squelch questions about the mission, using Owens’ memory in a way the fallen soldier’s father doesn’t appreciate.

The president went so far as to say Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) rhetoric about the operation “emboldens the enemy!

Nevertheless, a variety of congressional Democrats have sought additional information about the operation in Yemen, and apparenty for the first time, a White House official said yesterday an investigation is likely to occur. The Washington Post reported:
A senior White House spokeswoman said Sunday that she thinks President Trump will support an investigation requested by the father of William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, into the circumstances surrounding his death during a raid on al-Qaeda last month in Yemen.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal White House deputy secretary, offered that assessment during an appearance on ABC News’s “This Week” in which she was asked to respond to a request by Bill Owens in a Miami Herald interview for an investigation related to his son’s death.

“I haven’t had the chance to speak with him directly about that, but I would imagine that he would be supportive of that,” Sanders said of Trump.
As is always the case, the details matter, and we don’t yet have a sense of what kind of investigation the White House might support, but I believe this was the first time anyone on Team Trump even opened the door this far.