President Trump says that he had not given the final go ahead for an Iranian attack when he called off a strike on Thursday night.
He told NBC’s Chuck Todd in a Friday interview that airs in full on Sunday morning on ‘Meet the Press’ that the planes were still on the ground when he called the whole thing off.
‘Nothing is greenlighted until the very end, because things change,’ Trump said. ‘We had something ready to go, subject to my approval.’
He said he asked the critical question that caused him to hold back of a military general a half hour before the aircraft was due to take off.
‘No, were about ready to go. No, but they would have been pretty soon,’ he said. ‘And things would have happened to a point where we wouldn’t turn back, couldn’t turn back.’
He said he asked how many people would be killed. ‘Approximately 150,’ the unidentified general told him.
Trump said the number gave him pause, considering Iran shot down an unmanned drone.
‘And here we are sitting with 150 people dead people that would have taken place, probably within a half hour, after I said go ahead. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was proportionate,’ he said.
President Trump says that he had not given the final go ahead for an Iranian attack when he called off a strike on Thursday night
Trump said Friday morning in a tweet that he was ready to attack three Iranian sites on Thursday night but he called off the strikes after learning the assault would kill an estimated 150 people.
‘We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,’ he said in tweets, ‘not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.’
He said, ‘I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!’
In an interview with CNN’s The Situation Room, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman James Risch described Trump as a president who ‘doesn’t want to go to war.’
‘I really watched him agonize over this. It comes down to one man,’ Risch said.
House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith added that he observed Trump ‘really wrestling’ over the decision.
However at the White House, a senior administration official suggested that Trump over ruled his senior advisers and military leaders.
‘There was complete unanimity amongst the President’s advisors and DOD leadership on an appropriate response to Iran’s activities. The President made the final decision,’ the official said, in response to a question about the decision to levy sanctions.
Those aides include Iran hawk John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor; Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state who had been seen as more doveish than Bolton; and CIA director Gina Haspel.
Iran claimed that it had received a warning via the Gulf state of Oman that an attack was imminent and that Trump wanted to talk to Tehran directly. There was no confirmation of that claim from the U.S.
Donald Trump said Friday he was ready to attack three Iranian sites on Thursday night but he called off the strikes after learning the assault would kill an estimated 150 people
How the claims differ: Iran and the U.S. differ on where the drone was when it was targeted
U.S. side: Central Command released more details of the drone’s activities, showing its flight path before it was shot down
It is unclear which Pentagon chiefs were advising Trump since his acting secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan leaves Friday after he was revealed to have defended his son who fractured his wife’s skull with a baseball bat.
Trump had said Thursday that he believed someone ‘loose and stupid,’ possibly a general, ordered the strike on the Navy drone and he had a ‘big, big feeling’ that someone made a mistake.
‘I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody who shouldn’t have been doing it,’ he assessed.
Trump suggested that loss of life was a factor in his thinking then. ‘We didn’t have a man or woman in the drone,’ he argued. ‘It would have made a big, big difference.’
But he promised the U.S. would not leave the attack unanswered. ‘This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you,’ he said.
Instead he revealed the last-minute change of heart, while Iran said it could have shot down a P-8 spy plane at the same time it targeted the drone, claiming it would have killed 35 Americans by doing so.
There has been no confirmation of the P-8 being near the drone, although recently-released footage from the Pentagon of a tanker being targeted by what the U.S. says were Iranian Republican Guards, was taken from a P-8.
The drone incident aggravated fears of direct military confrontation between the longtime foes, and oil prices rose a further $1 per barrel to above $65.50 on Friday due to worries about possible disruptions to crude exports from the Gulf.
Lawmakers in the U.S. meanwhile encouraged Trump to take a ‘measured’ approach to answering the drone attack and warned him that Iran is begging for war.
Tehran said it doesn’t want a military conflict and claimed it had issued two warnings to the Americans before shooting the spy plane down eight miles from its shores.
‘Unfortunately, when they failed to reply… and the aircraft made no change to its trajectory… we were obliged to shoot it down,’ Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said.
Iranian state TV today showed off debris from the downed spy plane, including its fuselage, but none of the secret technology contained within.
Reuters reported that Trump sent a message via Oman to Iran calling for talks and de-escalation, but the Iranians are disputing information that appeared in the article.
‘In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues,’ an Iranian source told Reuters. ‘He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei to decide about this issue.’
The New York Times first reported that Trump that had authorized, and called off, airstrikes on Iranian radar and missile batteries.
Planes were in the air and ships were in position when the mission was called off – against the advice Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and CIA director Gina Haspel, according to the report.
Trump had met with congressional leaders at the White House on Thursday afternoon.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other legislators with top security clearance attended.
Pelosi said in a Friday statement: ‘We are in an extremely dangerous and sensitive situation with Iran. We must calibrate a response that de-escalates and advances American interests, and we must be clear as to what those interests are.
‘During our meeting with the President at the White House, Congressional Leaders stressed the necessity that we work with our allies and not strengthen the hand of Iran’s hardliners.
‘Democratic Leaders emphasized that hostilities must not be initiated without the approval of Congress,’ she said. ‘We have no illusions about the dangerous conduct of the Iranian regime. This is a dangerous, high-tension situation that requires a strong, smart and strategic approach.’
Schumer said the told the president that conflicts like this tend to escalate unintentionally.
‘The president may not intend to go to war here, but we are worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war. We told the room that the Democratic position is that Congressional approval must be required before funding any conflict in Iran,’ he said.
He argued in favor of a ‘robust, open debate’ within Congress. He said Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote on an amendment that require congressional approval for defense dollars to be spent on a military conflict with Iran.
‘It’s supported by all Democrats in the Senate. We are asking leader McConnell to do the right thing and give us a vote next week on the NDAA on that amendment,’ he stated.
Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Friday that war would be a ‘disaster’ and Congress must ‘assert its constitutional authority’ to keep that from happening.
‘A war with Iran would be a disaster and lead to endless conflict in the region. Congress must assert its constitutional authority and stop Trump from going to war,’ he tweeted.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, another Democratic presidential candidate, claimed that the Trump administration is on a ‘clear march’ to a war that it does not have the authority wage.
‘This is not reality television, where decisions are made in the pursuit of maximum drama,’ he said in a statement. ‘The President together with his top officials have been bent on escalating an already tenuous situation in the Middle East, with no plan in place to de-escalate tensions.’
Booker said, ‘This is a crisis of his own making — his reckless and erratic Iran policy is responsible for this combustible moment.
‘Any military action in Iran that circumvents Congressional approval is a blatant and unconstitutional power grab.’
Freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told a reporter for CNN on Capitol Hill that Tehran is trying to provoke the United States.
‘I think they’re trying to goad us into a military conflict that’s completely irresponsible,’ she said Thursday afternoon.
Trump, pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, National security adviser John Bolton, center, and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, is said to have approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing a US drone but pulled back last minute
This grainy black and white footage shows the drone as it plummets from the sky
Iran released images purporting to show the fuselage of the wrecked US drone on Friday
The purported wreckage of the American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in Tehran
A section of the destroyed warplane released by Iran, amid fears over what Tehran and its allies might glean from its inner workings
Tehran had claimed earlier in the day that it had ‘indisputable’ evidence the drone violated its airspace.
But the U.S. said the drone was shot down 21 miles off the Iranian coast, in the Strait of Hormuz.
Pentagon video footage showed a smoke trail from the $180 million surveillance aircraft following a missile strike on the drone it says was flying over international waters.
Amid the increasing fears of open conflict, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed to Fox News that a ‘measured response’ would be coming from the White House.
In a statement, the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, and ranking lawmakers on security committees, Reps, Michael McCaul, Devin Nunes and Mac Thornberry, used similar language after the briefing with Trump and senior administration officials.
‘There must be a measured response to these actions. President Trump and his national security team remain clear-eyed on the situation and what must be done in response to increased Iranian aggression,’ they said.
‘In Congress, we stand ready to support our men and women in uniform, our country, and our allies in the region.’
A section of the spy plane’s fuselage lies on the floor after it was shot down just after 4am local time on Thursday
Debris from the wrecked drone was pictured by Iranian media as Trump asked for talks with the Supreme leader
Iran said it had recovered parts of a US spy drone in its territorial waters, after downing the aircraft in a missile strike slammed by President Donald Trump as a ‘big mistake’
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei next to Khordad-3 missile system last month – Trump has reportedly conveyed his demands to speak to the head of state
Trump gathered national security officials for a Situation Room meeting on Thursday afternoon. Haspel, Pompeo, Army Secretary Mark Esper and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan attended.
Shanahan arrived for the meeting with Trump holding a folder marked ‘SECRET/NOFORN.’
Neither the Pentagon nor the White House has commented on the briefing.
Trump has twice taken military action against targets in the Middle East – in Syria in April of 2017 and 2018.
Officials at the Pentagon are said to have warned of escalation and risks for American forces of expanding the military footprint in the region to Iran.
Massachusetts Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren told Trump on Thursday that he ‘needs to step back from the brink of war’ in a tweet.
She said, ‘Donald Trump promised to bring our troops home. Instead he has pulled out of a deal that was working and instigated another unnecessary conflict.
‘There is no justification for further escalating this crisis—we need to step back from the brink of war.’
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said, ‘The place we have arrived at tonight on Iran is Donald Trump’s choice. He chose escalation over diplomacy, without any idea how to get out of the downward spiral he set in motion.’
On Friday morning, the U.S. president blamed former president Barack Obama for the present situation.
He said, ‘President Obama made a desperate and terrible deal with Iran – Gave them 150 Billion Dollars plus I.8 Billion Dollars in CASH! Iran was in big trouble and he bailed them out. Gave them a free path to Nuclear Weapons, and SOON. Instead of saying thank you, Iran yelled Death to America.
‘I terminated deal, which was not even ratified by Congress, and imposed strong sanctions. They are a much weakened nation today than at the beginning of my Presidency, when they were causing major problems throughout the Middle East. Now they are Bust!’
A fragment on display at the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps headquarters in Tehran on Friday
Purported parts of the wrecked Navy spyplane at IRGC headquarters in the capital today
Debris lies on display tables before banners picturing the Naval spy plane and its alleged route into Iranian airspace
Trump tweeted the Iranian military ‘made a very big mistake’ when it shot down a spy drone
Trump went on to confirm in tweets that he was ready to pull the trigger on strikes but pulled back when he learned the death toll would be high.
He said he decided that 150 deaths was a not a ‘proportionate’ response to an unmanned drone strike that resulted in no loss of American life.
He claimed new sanctions had been put on Tehran in retaliation. He did not say what they were, and Treasury had not announced new punishing actions as of Friday morning.
On Thursday evening the the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order prohibiting all U.S. flights in over water area of Tehran-controlled airspace above Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.
This followed an earlier release by United Airlines that said it had suspended flights between New Jersey’s Newark airport and the Indian financial capital of Mumbai following a safety review.
‘Given current events in Iran, we have conducted a thorough safety and security review of our India service through Iranian airspace and decided to suspend our service between EWR and BOM,’ United said on its website, referring to the airports.
Qantas, Air France and KLM announced later they would also avoid flights through the region.
Earlier Thursday the US suggested the drone – which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 – was shot down 21 miles off the Iranian coast in the Strait of Hormuz.
Lt Gen Joseph Guastella, commander of U.S. Central Command air forces in the region, said: ‘This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time.’
But the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it brought the drone down because it was ‘violating Iranian air space’ over the waters of Hormozgan province.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif provided coordinates to back the claim and said Iran would take the evidence to the United Nations.
‘At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace,’ Zarif tweeted. ‘It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59’43’N 57°02’25’E) near Kouh-e Mobarak.’
‘We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.’
Central Command finally revealed their location for the drone as administration officials met for the hour long classified briefing with Trump in the situation room.
The Pentagon denounced the strike as an ‘unprovoked attack’ in international air space, claiming the navy drone was some 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Iran when destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.
Outgoing acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives for a meeting with President Donald Trump about Iran carrying a folder marked secret, at the White House
The US-made surveillance drone was brought down by Iran over the southern coastal province of Hormozgan, the Revolutionary Guard claimed
A handout TV grab made available by Iran state television English service press TV (PTV) reportedly shows Iran’s surface-to-air missile system ‘Khordad-3’ as it launches to shoot down a US surveillance drone
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it brought the drone down as it was ‘violating Iranian air space’ over the waters of Hormozgan province