President Donald Trump said Tuesday that last month’s deadly commando raid in Yemen, which led to the death of Navy SEAL William Ryan Owens, was planned by military officials before he came into office.
"Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here,” the president said on "Fox and Friends." “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,” Trump added, saying that buck stops “before I got here."
NBC News confirmed that the plans for the raid began under the Obama administration, but were not pursued because of a substantial escalation in Yemen. But five days into his administration, Trump chose to greenlight the operation.
A number of Pentagon officials told NBC News that the raid yielded no significant intelligence, though it led to the death of Owens and a number of children.
Despite the losses, the Trump administration has maintained that the mission was a success. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the military operation yielded “unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil."
After the White House was hit with criticism for the mission, Spicer doubled down. During a Feb. 8 press briefing, he said that "anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [does] a disservice to the life of Chief Owens."
Williams Owens, the Navy SEAL’s father, told the Miami Herald on Sunday that he doubted the need for the raid and called for an investigation.
When Trump traveled to the airport to meet the homecoming casket of Chief Owens, William Owens refused to meet with him.
Spicer said on Monday that three Pentagon reviews of the raid would take place, as is military protocol.
“I met most of the family, and I can understand people saying that. I'd feel you know, I'd feel — what's worse?” Trump said.
“But again this is something they (U.S. military officials) were looking at for a long time now,” Trump added.