Updated 1:11 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Tuesday suggested Iran’s shootdown of an American military drone was just a mistake likely carried out by someone who is both “loose and stupid.” But he also warned Tehran he might retaliate as tensions continue to escalate.
Asked if he intends to respond, Trump for the second time within the hour told reporters, “You’ll find out.”
Democratic lawmakers and some foreign policy experts have expressed concerns that some hawkish members of his staff, led by National Security Adviser John Bolton, might be pushing him toward war with a country they long have had in their collective sights.
“No, no. Not at all,” the president said. “In fact, in many cases, it’s the opposite”
He then noted that as a candidate during the 2016 election cycle, part of his campaign trail pitch was his desire to “get out of these endless wars.”
“I campaigned on that, I want to get out,” he said. “We’ve been in Afghanistan for 19 years,” Trump said, later ending the question-and-answer session with another cryptic statement.
“But this is a new wrinkle, a new fly in the ointment what happened, shooting down a drone,” he said with a stern expression and tone. “And this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.”
Congressional leaders and the heads of the House and Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees from both parties are due at the White House at 3 p.m. for a Situation Room briefing on the situation.
He then, as he often does, contradicted himself by indicating U.S. officials believe the Iranian government was behind shooting down the RQ-4 Global Hawk when he said Iranian officials “made a big mistake.”
The U.S. commander in chief suggested that because there was no human pilot inside the drone, any potential response will be less harsh than had it been a manned U.S. aircraft.
Trump called the strike “foolish,” but declined to say whether he is questioning whether Iranian leaders have lost control of their military personnel.
“We didn’t have a man or woman in the drone,” he said in the Oval Office alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It would have made a big, big difference.”
Without providing supporting data, Trump said he has a “big, big feeling” the shootdown was a mistake.
And as he often does when pressed about volatile national security issues, he dropped one of his preferred — and vague — lines, telling reporters, “Let’s see what happens.”
For his part, Trudeau described himself as “very concerned” about Iran’s strike and said he hopes the “international community” will form a collective response.