Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY
Published 4:28 p.m. ET Jan. 7, 2020 | Updated 11:32 a.m. ET Jan. 8, 2020
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warrenadded to her public comments about the U.S.-ordered airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani after she was pressed by “The View” co-host Meghan McCain to acknowledge him as a “terrorist.”
“Of course he was,” Warren said after a tense back-and-forth with McCain, who asked the question multiple times.
The Democratic top-tier presidential hopeful addressed recent criticism that her message on the Soleimani killing ordered by President Donald Trump appeared to have changed, because she referred to him once as a “murderer” and then later as a government official who was “assassinated.” Both are true, Warren said Tuesday.
“Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” Warren tweeted after news of the airstrike surfaced. “But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.”
Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 3, 2020
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In a later tweet, Warren said that Trump had “escalated tensions” with Iran. “Now he’s assassinated a senior foreign military official. He’s been marching toward war with Iran since his first days in office—but the American people won’t stand for it.”
“I believe you respect the military and you respect our troops,” McCain told Warren before reciting the multiple public statements. “I don’t understand the flip-flop. I don’t understand why it was so hard to call him a terrorist.”
“This isn’t a change. They’re true,” Warren said. “The question is, what is the response that the president of the United States should make, and what advances the interests of the United States of America.”
McCain interrupted to ask Warren whether Soleimani was a terrorist.
“He’s part of a group that’s been designated–,” Warren said before being interrupted.
“But is he a terrorist?” McCain interjected. Warren began giving the same response, when McCain again said, “So he’s not a terrorist?”
“Of course he is,” Warren said. “He’s part of a group that our federal government has designated as a terrorist. The question, though, is what’s the right response? And the response that Donald Trump has picked is the most incendiary and has moved us to the edge of war.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, also a 2020 contender, used the word “assassination” to refer to Soleimani’s killing in a statement. But another 2020 Democrat, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, called that characterization “outrageous.”
“This is a guy who had an awful lot of American blood on his hands,” Bloomberg said in response to Sanders’ statement.
Trump ordered the killing of the influential Iranian figure late last week, which the Defense Department labeled a “defensive action,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained it as preventing an “imminent” threat against American diplomats and soldiers.
Warren has questioned the president’s timing for the strike, suggesting it is a “reasonable question to ask” whether Trump is trying to distract from impeachment in an interview with CNN on Sunday. “People are asking, why in this moment?” Warren said.
“The president of the United States could be facing an impeachment trial in the Senate. We know that he’s deeply upset about that,” she said.
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“My take on this is, Soleimani was a bad guy, but the question is, what’s the right response?” Warren said on The View.
Warren also hit Trump for his tweet suggesting the United States would target Iranian cultural sites if the regime retaliated for Soleimani’s killing. “It would be a war crime if the United States did that,” Warren said.
The president has since backed off that statement, saying Tuesday, “I like to obey the law.”
“But think of it: They kill our people, they blow up our people and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions. But I’m OK with it,” Trump said.
“He has moved us close to the edge of war. He’s put our country on the edge of going to war. We know that the Iranians are going to respond,” Warren said. “The job of the president of the United States is to keep America safe, to have a coherent, long-term strategy, not to make compulsive decisions.”
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