Democrats on Wednesday said it was appropriate for President Donald Trump to honor the widow of the SEAL who was killed in last month — but the tribute does not erase lingering questions surrounding the Yemen raid.
“I was proud to be part of the standing ovation in tribute to her courage and strength and her sacrifice, particularly as the dad of a naval officer who’s currently deployed. But it’s no substitute for an investigation,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
Trump’s honoring of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and his widow, Carryn Owens, in a powerful moment during his address to Congress, drew an an extended standing ovation.
Still, the reaction, Democrats said, does not negate the calls from Owens’ father for a review into the decision-making process that led to Trump’s approval of the raid five days into his presidency.
More galling was Trump’s casting blame on his generals for the mission — “They lost Ryan,” Trump said — just hours before the tribute to Owens’ widow, the lawmakers charged.
“I think he made an unfortunate statement earlier where he kind of blamed it on the generals, kind of deflected responsibility, and I think, in his way, he was trying to make up for it,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate in 2016, added that he thought it was “most unusual” for Trump to highlight the raid, given the divide within the family. “I had a lot of conflicting emotions about that because of the classified briefings I’ve been in, and because there was some family tension over the role of the president.”
The Pentagon is currently undertaking three investigations related to the January raid — one on the raid itself, another on the allegations of civilian casualties, and a third on the V-22 Osprey aircraft that crashed during the mission.
Several Democrats — including Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee — suggested Congress should get involved with its own investigation if the Pentagon’s is not sufficient, though they said they wanted to await the results of the Defense Department probes first.
“I think we have to continue to review their ongoing after-action investigation,” Reed told POLITICO. “We have to send a message that we expect this to be accomplished thoroughly but expeditiously. If they had to take another operation, they don’t want to make the same what they themselves, I think, would concede would be misjudgments.”
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) currently has no plans to investigate the raid separately from the Pentagon.
For Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), honoring Owens’ sacrifice should be unrelated to the success of the raid. He warned the Trump administration not to “oversell” what intelligence was obtained from the Yemen raid.
“What if there was nothing there?” Graham said. “He’s still a hero.”
By: Jeremy Herb