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Trump deflects blame for Yemen raid that killed U.S. Navy SEAL

The president also said the controversial operation produced "tremendous" intelligence.

By
Doug G. Ware
President Donald Trump speaks at the swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon on January 27. Tuesday, Trump emphasized in an appearance on the Fox News Channel that an anti-terror raid in Yemen on January 29, which killed a U.S. Navy SEAL and a number of civilians, was planned by former President Barack Obama's administration. Pool photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI
President Donald Trump speaks at the swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon on January 27. Tuesday, Trump emphasized in an appearance on the Fox News Channel that an anti-terror raid in Yemen on January 29, which killed a U.S. Navy SEAL and a number of civilians, was planned by former President Barack Obama's administration. Pool photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday distanced himself from a rare anti-terror raid in Yemen last month that resulted in the death of a U.S. Navy SEAL -- emphasizing that although it was successful, he didn't plan the operation.

Trump made the remarks during an in-studio appearance on the Fox News Channel.

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"According to [Defense Secretary] General [James] Mattis, it was a very successful mission," Trump said during a segment of Fox and Friends. "They got tremendous amounts of information."

The Pentagon and White House have both maintained that plenty of usable intelligence was produced by the Jan. 29 raid, which the Defense Department classified as a "site exploitation mission," or an information-gathering effort.

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Those claims, though, conflict with statements made by some U.S. officials earlier this month that little, if any, workable intelligence was taken from the site.

Navy Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, a member of the elite Virginia-based SEAL Team 6, and a number of Yemeni civilians were killed during the raid. A military aircraft worth $75 million was also lost, as U.S. troops were forced to destroy it after a crash-landing at the raid site.

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The operation, a rare deployment of American ground forces in Yemen, resulted in the first U.S. military death of Trump's administration.

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Though he hailed the operation as a success, Trump said Tuesday that he really can't be blamed for Owens' death -- emphasizing that it was planned by former President Barack Obama's administration.

"This was a mission that was started before I got here," Trump said. "This was something that was, you know, just -- they wanted to do. They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do."

Obama's Pentagon did, in fact, plan the operation months before it was carried out. Military leaders, however, wanted to wait for a moonless night to conduct the raid, which pushed it into Trump's presidency.

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"They lost Ryan," the president said after pointing out that "my generals are the most respected that we have had in many decades."

The Defense Department currently has three open investigations into the raid -- one for Owens' death, one for the civilian deaths and one for the destroyed MV-22 Osprey aircraft.

Owens' father has been highly critical of the operation and refused to meet with Trump after his son's body was returned to the United States.

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"Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration?" William Owens told the Miami Herald. "Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen -- everything was missiles and drones -- because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?"

"I can understand people saying that. I would feel -- what's worse? There's nothing worse," Trump said Tuesday. "I was at the airport when the casket came in, the body came in, and it was very sad with the family, and it's a great family."

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