President Donald Trump said the use of U.S. military force in Venezuela remains "an option," adding he turned down a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
In an interview with CBS Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan that
aired Sunday, Trump didn't specify what conditions would prompt the
United States to take military action as National Assembly President
Juan Guaido -- who has been backed by the United States -- challenges
Maduro's presidency, but he hadn't ruled it out.
"Well I don't want to say that. But certainly it's something that's on
the -- it's an option," Trump said when asked about the possibility.
Trump added that Maduro requested a meeting with him "a number of months
ago," but declined because the United States was already "very far
along in the process" of supporting Guaido, although he only formally
recognize the opposition leader as Venezuela's interim president on Jan.
"You have a young and energetic gentleman but you have other people
within that same group that have been very very -- if you talk about
democracy -- it's really democracy in action," Trump said.
He also cited "many really horrible things" that have been happening in Venezuela for his decision to turn down the meeting.
"That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world which
is a very important part of the world. And now you look at the poverty
and you look at the anguish and you look at the crime and you look at
all of the things happening," Trump said. "So, I think the process is
playing out -- very, very big tremendous protests."
Trump also addressed his disagreement with the U.S. intelligence
community its belief that more work needs to be done to combat the
Islamic State in Syria before withdrawing U.S. troops by reiterating his
assertion that the terror group has largely been eradicated.
"You have the caliphate almost knocked out," Trump said. "We will be
announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate,
which is the area -- the land -- the area, 100. We're at 99 percent
right now, we'll be at 100," Trump said.
The president went on to say that he doesn't "have to agree" with his
intelligence chiefs and the information they provide him if it isn't
consistent with his personal counsel.
"My intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful
kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent. It is a vicious country
that kills many people," Trump said. "We were in many, many locations in
the Middle East, in huge difficulty. Every single one of them was
caused by the number one terrorist nation in the world which is Iran. So
when my intelligence people tell me how wonderful Iran is --- if you
don't mind, I'm going to just go by my own counsel."
Further discussing the Syria withdrawal, Trump said the 2,000 troops are
slowly beginning to leave the country while combating the "final
remainder of the caliphate" and they will later "be going to our base in
Iraq, and ultimately, some will be coming home."
He added a small contingent of troops will also be kept in Afghanistan for "real intelligence" purposes.
"I'll leave intelligence there and if I see nests forming, I'll do something about it," Trump said.
Trump expressed if the Islamic State or al Qaeda terror groups
experienced a resurgence after the troops are withdrawn he would simply
send forces back.
"We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can
come back very quickly, and I'm not leaving. We have a base in Iraq and
the base is a fantastic edifice. I mean I was there recently, and I
couldn't believe the money that was spent on these massive runways. And
these -- I've rarely seen anything like it. And it's there. And we'll be
there," he said.
Trump also said that he requested former defense secretary, James
Mattis, resign due to his displeasure with how Mattis handled Syria,
Afghanistan and Iraq.
"I wasn't happy with his service. I told him, 'Give me a letter,'" Trump
said. "He resigned because I asked him to resign. "He resigned because I
was very nice to him.
"I gave him big budgets and he didn't do well in Afghanistan. I was not
happy with the job he was doing in Afghanistan. And if you look at Syria
what's happened. I went to Iraq recently, if you look at Syria, what's
happened in Syria in the last few weeks, you would see that things are
going down that were not going down. That things are happening that are
very good. So I was not happy with him, but I wish him well."
The interview was conducted in the Blue Room of the White House on
Friday before he departed for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Fla.
On Sunday, he plans to watch at least some of the Super Bowl at party in
the resort before returning to Washington.
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