WASHINGTON, D.C. — The largest progressive group of veterans in America, VoteVets, is today filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration, to uncover the truth surrounding the deaths of service members in Yemen and Niger. To date, the Administration has given unclear and, at times, contradictory public statements about the events leading up to the deadly incidents and today’s suit seeks records surrounding the Administration’s public response to the failed military operations. 

VoteVets is represented in the suit, on a pro bono basis, by the Democracy Forward Foundation.   

VoteVets requested materials, under the Freedom of Information Act, in October.  The Administration failed to meet statutory deadline for the records request, or even provide an estimate of how long VoteVets will have to wait to obtain these records.

You can view the original FOIA requests here and here.

You can view the complaint being filed in court today, here.

The group explains in the suit that it is concerned with why there were conflicting reports about the intelligence obtained in the Yemen raid, that resulted in the death of SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. The administration declared the operation a “success” and told the American people that important and usable intelligence was obtained in the raid. Subsequent reports said those claims were false, and Senator John McCain declared the operation a “failure.” The group also expressed concern over total silence about the deaths of Green Berets in Niger, well after the Department of Defense had confirmed the deaths. Donald Trump only commented on the deaths, after pressed to do so, at a press conference a week after the deaths.

 “The public response to the deaths of troops in the Yemen and Niger operations from this administration was confusing, and misleading, and we deserve to know why,” said Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations for VoteVets. “We need to know if the administration was trying to hide the truth about the operations from the American people, or trying to keep Donald Trump from having to accept responsibility, as Commander in Chief. A lot of things just do not add up about the public response to these failed operations, and the American people deserve to know why.”

Bill Owens, father of Ryan Owens, expressed support for the suit. “I have had nothing but questions, since Ryan was killed in Yemen, and I’d like to get some answers,” said Owens. “This suit might get me the answers I’m looking for, and which all of America should get. I’m fully supportive of it, and hope the court will help us get us information that can fill in a lot of blanks.”

“When America’s troops are killed in combat, it is the President’s duty to be accountable to the families of the fallen, and to explain to the American people what went wrong, and why,” said Anne Harkavy, Executive Director of Democracy Forward Foundation.  “Releasing the information requested is the very minimum that the Trump administration owes to these Gold Star families.”


Founded in 2006, and backed by over 500,000 supporters, the mission of VoteVets.org is to use public issue campaigns and direct outreach to lawmakers to ensure that troops abroad have what they need to complete their missions, and receive the care they deserve when they get home. VoteVets.org also recognizes veterans as a vital part of the fabric of our country and will work to protect veterans’ interests in their day-to-day lives. VoteVets.org is committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world – with force when necessary – to protect America. While non-partisan, the group is the largest progressive organization of veterans in America.

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.


This press release was originally published on VoteVets.org