As we reported last week, the White House has acknowledged that Donald Trump was not in the Situation Room during the raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of U.S. Navy SEAL Chief William "Ryan" Owens. New reporting exposes the magnitude of Trump's disengagement.
At a White House briefing last week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked where Donald Trump was during the operation in Yemen that tragically resulted in the death of U.S. Navy Seal Chief William “Ryan” Owens, as well as other injuries to service members and, reportedly, double-digit civilian casualties that included children.
Spicer gave this stunning reply (emphasis mine):
JACKSON: Where was the president the night of the raid? How did he learn about Chief Owens’ death? And do you still stand by your characterization that it was successful?
SPICER: The president was here in the residence. He was kept in touch with his national security staff. Secretary Mattis and others had kept him updated on both the raid and the death of Chief Owens, as well as the 4 other individuals that were injured. So, he was kept apprised of the situation throughout the evening. And again, I think I would go back to what I said yesterday: It’s hard to ever call something a complete success when you have a loss of life or people injured.
That Trump was absent from the Situation Room during his first covert operation as Commander-in-Chief is scandalous on its own, but according to new reporting, that absence is even more glaring than first thought.
According to NBC News, the target of that raid was the head of al Qaeda:
The Navy SEAL raid in Yemen last week had a secret objective — the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who survived and is now taunting President Donald Trump in an audio message.
Military and intelligence officials told NBC News the goal of the massive operation was to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi, considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world and a master recruiter.
But while one SEAL, 14 al Qaeda fighters and some civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed during a firefight, al-Rimi is still alive and in Yemen, multiple military officials said.
Our last popularly-elected president and our most recent popular vote winner were famously present for this raid on an al Qaeda compound in Pakistan, which took out al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden:
— CIA (@CIA) May 1, 2016
Former Hillary Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo were some of the few prominent people who spoke out about Trump’s absence on Twitter:
— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) February 6, 2017
It would be much better for all of us if you got out of your bathrobe and made sure there wasn't something going on in the Sit Room. https://t.co/gNleVFjswu
— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) February 7, 2017
If this were Obama? https://t.co/wUIngGwtkC
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) February 3, 2017
The relative success of the Yemen raid is a matter of some debate, but there is little doubt that if President Obama and Hillary Clinton had been absent from the Situation Room during the bin Laden raid, the outcry would have been deafening. If bin Laden had managed to survive the raid and then taunt Obama by saying “The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” the airwaves would likely be choked by reporting and commentary on the absentee president, and Congress would surely be preparing for a raft of hearings.
And if, in the interval between learning of the death of a brave servicemember and publicly announcing it, any other president took the time to compose petty tweets to slam dissenters, elected officials would certainly be quick to denounce the behavior loudly and often.
Instead, it is only the general silence that is deafening.