Trump Shirks Blame For SEAL Death: ‘This Was Something They Wanted To Do’

President Donald Trump speaks to a meeting of the National Governors Association at the White House, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump seemed to shirk his own responsibilities as commander in chief Tuesday, saying that military leaders called for a ground raid in Yemen five days after his inauguration that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL.

“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” Trump said of the raid in an interview with “Fox and Friends” Tuesday. “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.

He added later: “This was something that they were looking at for a long time doing, and according to Gen. Mattis, it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”

Trump was responding to criticism from the father of the American lost in that raid, William Owens. Owens’ son, William “Ryan” Owens, was 36. In addition to militants, at least 25 civilians, including nine children younger than 13, also lost their lives in the raid, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” Owens told the Miami Herald. “All of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”

The New York Times reported that Trump approved the raid over dinner with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.

Reuters, citing U.S. military officials, reported that “Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.”

In the interview with “Fox and Friends” Tuesday, Trump refused to name any example of a time when he had been justifiably criticized.

“I won’t give you any additional ammunition,” he said.

Responding to comments from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and others about the raid, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Feb. 8: “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [it’s] a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.”

NBC News reported Monday, citing unnamed senior U.S. officials, that the raid had produced no “actionable intelligence.”

Watch the exchange below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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