President Trump reasserted Tuesday night that a raid in Yemen that left one Navy SEAL dead was a success despite controversy this week created by criticism from the SEAL’s father and Trump's own remarks blaming generals for the serviceman's death.
“I just spoke to [Defense Secretary] General [James] Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies,’” Trump said during his first address to a joint session of Congress.
Carryn Owens, the widow of the Ryan Owens, was in the audience and received a standing ovation from the chamber as she fought back tears.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump appeared to blame the generals who planned the raid for the Owens's death when responding to a question about criticism from the SEAL's father, saying "they lost" Owens.
In an interview with the Miami Herald published Sunday, Owens's father said he refused to meet Trump when his son’s body arrived at Dover Air Force Base. He also criticized the Trump administration for using his son’s death to attack those calling for an investigation and questioned why the raid was carried out in the first place.
NBC News reported Monday night that officials said they’re unaware of any useful intelligence the raid produced.
Reports have painted a chaotic scene at the raid where al Qaeda may have been tipped off to the SEALs’ impending arrival. In addition to Owens, civilians were killed, and a $75 million U.S. military aircraft had to be destroyed after it crashed so that it wouldn’t fall into enemy hands.
The Pentagon is conducting three reviews into the raid, the White House confirmed Monday, following standard procedures for reviews into the death of a service member, the deaths of civilians and the destruction of hardware.
During Tuesday night's speech, Trump said the nation will never forget Owens’s sacrifice.
“Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity,” Trump said, to another standing ovation during which Carryn Owens also stood to applaud.
The applause break was one of the longest and most bipartisan of the night, and prompted Trump to ad lib: "Ryan is looking down right now, and he’s very happy because I think he just broke a record."
“For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends," Trump continued, back on script. "Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom. We will never forget him.”