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Father of fallen SEAL: 'Don't trust Donald Trump with your kid's life'

Three years later, fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens' father is still furious with how Trump handled his son's mission, and he's telling the nation in a new ad.
Image: Ryan Owens, left, with his father Bill Owens.
Ryan Owens, left, with his father Bill Owens.NBC News

There's been plenty of presidential campaign advertising of late, but the Washington Post yesterday highlighted a striking new ad from a PAC linked to VoteVets, the progressive veterans' group.

The father of a Navy SEAL who died in battle days after President Trump took office has condemned the president in a new political ad, saying that Americans should not trust the president with their lives or those of their children. William Owens' son, Senior Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, was the first person to die in combat during the Trump presidency following a Jan. 29, 2017, raid in Yemen.

"Just five days into his presidency, Trump ordered Ryan's SEAL team into Yemen, not in the situation room with all the intelligence assembled, but sitting across a dinner table from Steve Bannon," Owens tells viewers as the narrator of the ad. "There was no vital interest at play, just Donald Trump playing big man going to war."

He concludes, "If you hear one thing, let it be this: Don't trust Donald Trump with your kid's life -- or your own."

The ad was released to coincide with the president's remarks at the Republican National Convention last night.

If this story sounds at all familiar, it may because Trump pointed to Owens' death in the Republican's first congressional address, about a month after his inauguration. "Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity," Trump declared with the fallen Navy SEAL's widow in the chamber as a featured guest.

As we discussed at the time, however, there was more to the story than the president acknowledged. Phillip Carter, a former Army officer and former Pentagon official, wrote in Slate, for example, "Words cannot convey my compassion and sympathy for Owens and her family. And yet, at the same time, I can barely contain my anger and disgust at the way that Trump put her on display, seeking to appropriate her grief -- and her deceased husband's heroism -- for his political gain. This was stolen valor on a presidential scale."

BuzzFeed had a related report, quoting military officers who were not at all impressed with the president's display on Tuesday night. "Several used the word 'distasteful' to describe what happened during the address," the article noted.

Complicating matters, the president told the nation the operation in which Ryan Owens was killed was "a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence." NBC News, citing 10 sources, reported that Trump's claim wasn't true.

What's more, the closer one looks at what transpired, the more controversial the circumstances appear. Initially, some in the Trump White House made the case that it was the Obama administration that approved the mission. The evidence suggests the opposite is true.

In fact, U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved the raid -- the first operation he approved as president -- "without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations." He green-lit the mission over dinner at the White House residence, and while the raid was underway, Trump reportedly did not go to the Situation Room and did not monitor the developments in real time.

And in case all of this weren't quite enough, there's also the president's efforts to deny responsibility for the raid he personally approved. Asked about the deadly raid by Fox News, Trump said in February 2017, "Well this was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just, they wanted to do. They came to see me they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe, and they lost Ryan."

In light of all of this, is it any wonder Ryan Owens' father is still furious?