When President Donald Trump was considering military options against Iran he suddenly grew “frustrated” with John Bolton, his national security adviser, and the way he seemed to constantly advocate for a strike, reports the AP. So he started broadening his scope and seeking out advice from others, including Tucker Carlson. The Fox News host had a different take than most of his hawkish advisers, insisting that a military strike would not be in the country’s best interests and that it would severely hurt his re-election chances, according to the New York Times. Although there is no indication that Carlson’s voice was the deciding factor in ultimately calling off the strike, he does at least seem to have been one of the ones who planted a seed of doubt in his mind.
Despite the dramatic nature of initial reports, military planes weren’t already in the air when Trump decided to call off the strikes. The president confirmed it as much during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd for Meet the Press. “No,” he answered when asked if planes were already in the air, “but they would have been pretty soon, and things would have happened to a point where you would not turn back, you could not turn back.” Trump said at the last minute he decided to ask his generals how many people would be killed in the strike and was told approximately 150.
“I thought about it for a second and I said, you know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it, and here we are sitting with a 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead,” Trump said. “And I didn’t like it, I didn’t think, I didn’t think it was proportionate.”
Some are raising doubts about this timeline though. One official who talked to the Times said that the estimate was from a lawyer and not a general. The Pentagon lawyer who came up with the figure was drawing up a worst case scenario and didn’t take into account a multitude of factors that generals thought could reduce that number. In the end, it was White House lawyers, and not the generals, who allegedly conveyed that number to Trump, who then called off the strike.
CNN’s Jake Tapper also called out Trump’s claims, citing a source who said Trump had been told about possible casualty numbers much earlier than he claims. “He didn’t have to ask the general how many people would die. He had already been told,” the source allegedly told Tapper.
Trump insisted in his interview with NBC that he doesn’t want to go to war with Iran but there will be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before” if it comes to that.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus