Trump Criticizes McCain in Tweets Defending Yemen Raid

Sen. John McCain and President Donald Trump. (Photos via AP)
Sen. John McCain and President Donald Trump. (Photos via AP)

President Donald Trump on Thursday criticized Sen. John McCain in a series of tweets defending the recent Yemen raid that resulted in the death of a U.S. Navy SEAL.

Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36, was killed in the Jan. 29 raid against an Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula compound and became the first known combat fatality of Trump's presidency. Three other service members were wounded in what the Pentagon has termed a "ferocious firefight" and two more were injured in the hard landing of an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

Trump authorized the mission after reviewing it with several members of his administration, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general.

"Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media," Trump tweeted Thursday morning. "Only emboldens the enemy! He's been losing so … long he doesn't know how to win anymore, just look at the mess our country is in -- bogged down in conflict all over the place. Our hero … Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a 'failure.' Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!"

The president's comments came a day came after McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, indirectly criticized Trump for initially characterizing the raid as a "success."

"While many of the objectives of the recent raid in Yemen were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success," McCain said in a statement, according to Politico. "Going forward, I am confident that our military will act on lessons learned from this operation to strengthen our fight against our terrorist enemies."

In addition to calling the raid "successful," Trump had said that 14 militants were killed and that intelligence was seized "that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world."

The terrorist group known as AQAP has claimed responsibility for the "Charlie Hebdo" terror attacks in Paris in 2015 and for the attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit in December 2009 by the so-called "underwear bomber."

By law, the U.S. military has authority for operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Other operations require presidential approval.

In an interview with NBC News, McCain, who received a classified briefing on the mission, also said one of the objectives of the raid was to capture terrorists.

"My understanding of the parameters of the raid were, they wanted to capture individuals," he told the network. "The objective was to kill the bad guys but also capture some of them."

Another goal was to "gain information from various electronic devices," he said.

In a recording released after the raid, Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, taunted the U.S. president.

"The new fool of the White House received a painful slap across his face," he said in the 11-minute recording, CNN reported, citing information released by the SITE Intelligence Group.

While the Yemen raid may not have gone as planned -- the U.S. team killed female fighters of the al-Qaida affiliate and the damaged Osprey had to be destroyed by an AV-8B Harrier II jet flying off the amphibious assault ship Makin Island -- the Pentagon has pushed back against reports that the commandos lost the element of surprise.

The senator and the president have feuded before.

McCain withdrew his support for Trump during the presidential election after video surfaced showing Trump lewdly speaking about women. Trump, who received draft deferments during Vietnam, criticized the war record of McCain, who received the Silver Star, the third-highest valor medal, for resisting "extreme mental and physical cruelties," among other awards for his war service.

-- Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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