Trump Adviser Schools Chuck Todd on Iranian Threat, Calls Out Pro-Iran Media

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During a sit-down interview with NBC political director Chuck Todd on Sunday’s Meet the Press, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Ambassador Robert O’Brien embarrassed his host by repeatedly schooling him on how much of threat Iranian General Soleimani was. On top of that, he called out the liberal media for taking a pro-Iran stance with their refusal to cover the regime’s massacre of civilian protesters.

At the top of the interview, Todd pressed O’Brien with the media’s skepticism of the need to take Soleimani out, even gawking at Trump’s explanation that four embassies were being targeted. “Four embassies. If they were targeting four embassies, did you guys see that as a declaration of war by Iran? I mean, that's a big thing. What four embassies are we talking about here,” he scoffed.

“[T]he President's interpretation of that intelligence is very consistent with it and so, look, I think this has been -- this has been a Washington thing. I think when we tell the American people that there was exquisite intelligence and there was going to be an attack on Americans, we had to stop that,” O’Brien explained in part.

When Todd tied to suggest there wasn’t much done to protect any of the embassies, according to an unnamed source, O’Brien noted they moved plenty of military assets to and around the region, including soldiers, marines, and Apache helicopters. “We made it very clear this was not going to be Tehran 1979, this was not going to be Benghazi,” he said.

Todd then pushed the unfounded conspiracy theory that somehow Iran’s missile attack on two U.S. bases was designed to intestinally not kill anyone, and suggested their response to Soleimani’s slaying was “muted” (click “expand”):

TODD: Why, if you were so concerned that Soleimani was about to launch an imminent attack on as many as four different embassies, why do you think the Iranian response was so muted?

O’BRIEN: I don't think it was a muted response. They fired off 16 ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases where American and coalition forces were.

TODD [Interrupting]: They're accepting it as a muted response, though. Because they seemed to issue warnings, they let everybody know in advance. We were able to protect ourselves. I mean, it seems as if they telegraphed it on purpose. No?

 

 

O’Brien wholly rejected Todd’s spin and credited American technology for saving lives. “They issued warnings that they were going to retaliate, they didn't issue warnings of what they were going to do. We've got fantastic systems that can pick up launches of ballistic missiles in space, we’ve got early warning systems,” he said. “But look, I think it's a pretty serious thing when you fire off 16 ballistic missiles.”

Moments later, O’Brien walloped Todd by calling out the media’s refusal to cover the Iranian regime’s massacre of civilian protesters. “The people of Iran are upset, they're protesting. They have been protesting for some time. They have been brutally put down in Tiananmen Square-style massacres that the press has been not been covering and we think the regime is in real trouble.”

Todd was absolutely triggered and O’Brien continued to press the point (click “expand”):

TODD: Not to -- the press does everything it can to cover. It is a very difficult country to cover.

O’BRIEN: It is.

TODD: Because this is not a press trying to omit things here. I'd like that not to be a shot at us.

O’BRIEN: It is a difficult place to cover because they have an authoritarian regime and they shut down the internet and there are more questions about what the United States is doing to try to help the people of Iran than necessarily what the regime is doing. But I agree with you, it's a tough place to cover because of the regime.

Towards the end of their interview, citing a column from former Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) as backup, Todd tried to argue against labeling Soleimani a terrorist, despite his deep support for terrorist organizations. “[W]e took out a commander of another country's army and to call him a terrorist then at that point, when if you are calling him a terrorist, then isn't everybody in that regime a terrorist by definition,” he huffed.

O’Brien embarrassed Todd again by reminding viewers that Soleimani was the head of the Quds Force, an organization that “operates outside of Iran and foments revolution and terrorism” in places like Yemen, Syrian, and Iraq.

Adding: “But he's not just been designated by us, he's under a travel ban from the U.N. He shouldn't have been outside of Iran. I mean, this was someone who was a leader of an organization that was engaged in terror.”

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

NBC’s Meet the Press
January 12, 2020
10:36:36 a.m. Eastern

CHUCK TODD: Let me start with the imminent threat situation, because no one in the administration had talked about specific embassies at all. It was a very vague explanation that we got from various officials, whether it was yourself, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Esper, but here's what the President said on Friday evening. I want to play it and get some information on the other side. Here it is.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I believe it would have been four embassies, and I think that probably Baghdad already started. [Transition] Baghdad certainly would have been the lead, but I think it would have been four embassies. It could have been military bases, it could have been a lot of other things too.

TODD: Four embassies. If they were targeting four embassies, did you guys see that as a declaration of war by Iran? I mean, that's a big thing. What four embassies are we talking about here?

AMB. ROBERT O’BRIEN: So, we were very concerned about the situation. We had exquisite intelligence. And the intelligence showed that they were looking at U.S. facilities throughout the region and they wanted to inflict casualties on American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as well as diplomats. The threat was imminent. I saw the intelligence.

There's been a lot of discussion of the intelligence and I know everyone would like to see it. I'd love to have the intelligence out there now. Unfortunately, if we declassified it, we could end up losing that stream of intelligence that will allow us to protect Americans going forward, and so we can't. But the President's interpretation of that intelligence is very consistent with it and so, look, I think this has been -- this has been a Washington thing. I think when we tell the American people that there was exquisite intelligence and there was going to be an attack on Americans, we had to stop that.

TODD: Let me get you to respond [to]; this is what The Washington Post is reporting. “The embassy in Baghdad did not receive an alert commensurate to the threat that President Trump described, said a person familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to comment publicly. When the U.S. government has specific information about threats to embassies, warnings or alerts, they are often sent to embassy personnel to be vigilant.” Apparently, no one in Baghdad was told this. Why was that?

O’BRIEN: This was a very fast-moving situation. And Soleimani was traveling around the region plotting against the United States. As soon as it looked like there was going to be some sort of action against a U.S. embassy, the President was decisive and bold in his action. We moved a Marine company in immediately, we moved an Amy infantry platoon in immediately, and we made it clear, we put apache helicopters in the air. We made it very clear this was not going to be Tehran 1979, this was not going to be Benghazi.

(…)

O’BRIEN: So I think those threats were imminent. I don't want to get into the definition further than that, but we took the measures necessary to protect American diplomats and out soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. And I think what you see, because of the prompt action that we took both with respect to the embassy in Baghdad, which they would have attempted to overrun and storm, and with respect to our military bases that were hit by the Iranians with their ballistic missiles, there was no loss of American life in either case. And I think that's a credit to the president of the United States.

TODD: Why, if you were so concerned that Soleimani was about to launch an imminent attack on as many as four different embassies, why do you think the Iranian response was so muted?

O’BRIEN: I don't think it was a muted response. They fired off 16 ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases where American and coalition forces were.

TODD [Interrupting]: They're accepting it as a muted response, though. Because they seemed to issue warnings, they let everybody know in advance. We were able to protect ourselves. I mean, it seems as if they telegraphed it on purpose. No?

O’BRIEN: No, I don’t think -- They issued warnings that they were going to retaliate, they didn't issue warnings of what they were going to do. We've got fantastic systems that can pick up launches of ballistic missiles in space, we’ve got early warning systems. And because of our diligence and our vigilance, we were able to make sure that the American soldiers in those areas were dispersed.

But look, I think it's a pretty serious thing when you fire off 16 ballistic missiles. Now, because no Americans were killed, the President showed great restraint in responding. The Iranians appear to be standing down. We're putting additional economic sanctions on the Iranians and they will continue to receive the maximum pressure campaign.

(…)

O’BRIEN: Right now, we've got a maximum pressure campaign that is strangling the regime, their economy is contracting dramatically. The people of Iran are upset, they're protesting. They have been protesting for some time. They have been brutally put down in Tiananmen Square-style massacres that the press has been not been covering and we think the regime is in real trouble.

TODD: Not to -- the press does everything it can to cover. It is a very difficult country to cover.

O’BRIEN: It is.

TODD: Because this is not a press trying to omit things here. I'd like that not to be a shot at us.

O’BRIEN: It is a difficult place to cover because they have an authoritarian regime and they shut down the internet and there are more questions about what the United States is doing to try to help the people of Iran than necessarily what the regime is doing. But I agree with you, it's a tough place to cover because of the regime.

TODD: Let me ask you to respond to something that former senator Jim Webb, who was also a Reagan secretary of Navy and you know he's got very, very interesting views when it comes to war and peace and the Constitution. He writes this: “It is legally and logically impossible to define one part of a national government as an international terrorist organization without applying the term to that entire government. The Revolutionary Guards are part of the Iranian government. If they are attacking us, they are not a terrorist organization, they're an attacking army.”

He was basic -- we took out a commander of another country's army and to call him a terrorist then at that point, when if you are calling him a terrorist, then isn't everybody in that regime a terrorist by definition?

O’BRIEN: Well, in this case, the Quds Force, the IRGC Quds Force, which operates outside of Iran and foments revolution and terrorism in Yemen, in Syria where 500,000 people have been killed, in Lebanon with Hezbollah, in Iraq, that organization has been designated legally as a terrorist organization. Soleimani was the head of it.

But he's not just been designated by us, he's under a travel ban from the U.N. He shouldn't have been outside of Iran. I mean, this was someone who was a leader of an organization that was engaged in terror. He was involved in plotting imminent attacks against the United States. The President made a very difficult decision but a bold decision to remove him from the battlefield.

(…)

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