(NEW YORK) — President Trump responded to the father calling for an investigation of his Navy SEAL son’s death in a Yemen military raid, expressing sympathy for the service member’s family but defending the mission as one “that started before I got here.”
“This was something that they were looking at for a long time doing,” the president said in an interview with Fox & Friends that aired Tuesday morning. “And according to Gen. [James] Mattis it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”
“This was a mission that started before I got here,” Trump said.
The January raid in Yemen resulted in the death of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, 36, and injuries to three other Navy SEALS. Fourteen militants were killed in the raid. U.S. Central Command also said in early February that “civilian noncombatants likely were killed,” and that may have included children.
Owens’ father, Bill, told the Miami Herald in a recent interview that he did not want to meet Trump when the president attended Owens’ dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Feb. 1.
“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Bill Owens told the Florida newspaper on Friday.
The father also called for an investigation into his son’s death and additionally said he was troubled by Trump’s treatment of the Khans, a Gold Star family of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.
Trump said Tuesday, “I was at the airport when the casket came in, the body came in and it was a very sad with the family and it’s a great family – incredible wife and children. I met most of the family,” Trump recalled in the interview with Fox News.
“And I can understand people saying that. I would feel — I would feel what’s worse? There is nothing worse,” Trump said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during Monday’s press briefing that the administration continues to be “very comfortable” with the Yemen raid.
“We’re very comfortable with how the mission was executed and, you know, we’ll let the Department of Defense go through that review process,” Spicer said.
Spicer added there will be a three-pronged investigation done by the Department of Defense.
U.S. Central Command confirmed Sunday that there is what is called a 15-6 investigation underway into Owen’s death, which is standard for the death of any deployed U.S. military service member. U.S. Central Command is also conducting a review known as a credibility assessment into civilian casualties during the raid.
The president in the Fox News interview on Tuesday went after Arizona Sen. John McCain for his criticism of the Yemen mission.
“I felt badly when a young man dies, and John McCain said that was a failed mission,” Trump said. “I thought it was inappropriate that he goes to foreign soil and he criticizes our government.”
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