As debate continues to swirl over the mission’s results, President Trump’s acknowledgment of a fallen soldier’s wife was the most emotional moment of his first congressional address.
Carryn Owens, whose husband, Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, was killed in a Yemen raid last month, was moved to tears as Trump praised her husband’s sacrifice. The ovation was the longest of the night by far, going over 90 seconds as Owens attempted to fight back tears, glancing upward and clapping. She was sitting next to first daughter Ivanka Trump.
“Ryan died as he lived,” said Trump. “A warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our nation … Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget him.”
At the conclusion of the ovation, Trump deviated from his prepared remarks to cite the length of the ovation, saying, “Ryan is looking down right now, and I think he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted out a photo saying that Trump and Owens had embraced after the speech had ended:
— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) March 1, 2017
Trump also took the time during his tribute to reiterate that the mission in Yemen was a success.
“I just spoke to General Mattis,” said Trump during his address Tuesday, “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.’ Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.”
On Monday NBC News reported that government officials said the raid had yet to produce any significant, “actionable” intelligence. A senior official told the Associated Press on Tuesday that valuable information had been gathered about the al-Qaida network in Yemen.
In an interview published Sunday, Owens’ father, William Owens, questioned the president’s decision to go through with the raid.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” Owens said. “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?”
Trump appeared to place the blame for Owens’ death on his military leadership in a Monday interview with Fox News.
“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” said Trump. “This was something they wanted to do. They came to 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.”
The raid also resulted in multiple civilian deaths, including that of 8-year-old Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki.