Politics & Government

Here's why Trey Gowdy isn't calling for a Yemen investigation

Trey Gowdy
Trey Gowdy Getty Images

Trey Gowdy believes in the power of a Congressional investigation. In fact, he spent more than two years leading the select committee that looked into what happened during the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. But the Republican, who represents Greenville and Spartanburg, does not believe the January raid in Yemen — that resulted in the death of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens and other Yemeni civilians — is in the same category.

“Is there any evidence of a failure to provide information to Congress in the Yemen raid?" Gowdy asked in an email sent to The Greenville News. "Is there any evidence of failure to provide access to witnesses? [Department of Defense] military exercises are inherently different from State Department facilities which is by definition supposed to be safe and secure. In fact, the host country guarantees the safety and security of those on State Department grounds whereas there is no guarantee in military exercises.”

Just over a week after President Trump took office, a raid against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen turned deadly. The raid had been planned by the Obama Administration, but they didn’t move forward with it and Trump approved the raid during his first week in office.

Trump said during a speech to Congress last week that despite the loss of life, the administration is categorizing the raid as “highly successful” because it “generated large amounts of vital intelligence.” But others, including Senate Armed Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., took issue with the classification.

Ryan Owens’ father, Bill Owens, has called for an investigation into 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? 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?’’ Bill Owens said in an interview with The Miami Herald.

“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” he continued. “I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation.”

Gowdy was chair of the Select Committee on Benghazi. The panel conducted investigations from May 2014 to June 2016, into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, including a marathon 11-hour appearance by former secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The attack resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The Republicans on Gowdy’s panel issued a scathing report of how the attack was handled by the government — though it didn’t single out wrongdoing by Clinton — and the committee officially shut down in December of 2016.

“Benghazi was not a raid — it was an unprovoked attack under the color of darkness by a group we were led to believe no longer posed a threat to the United States. Benghazi was also not a DoD raid — it was an attack on a non-DoD facility,” Gowdy said. “Before the Select Committee, Benghazi was looked at by multiple committees including Armed Services and House Intelligence — both of whom issued reports. A Select Committee was empaneled because the administration was not providing relevant documents and access to witnesses.”

Spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez added that just because the media and members of the general public aren't aware of an ongoing investigation doesn't mean it is not being examined.

Trump led a lengthy ovation for Carryn Owens, the widow of Ryan Owens, during his address to Congress last week. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters afterward that it brought him to tears and it was one of the few moments during the speech where Democrats and Republicans all applauded.

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