Addressing the public for the first time since ordering the strike on Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, President Trump declared from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that the United States’ intention was to quash a war, not to begin one.
Taking to the podium after reporters were rushed back from the Palm Beach International Airport to the president’s resort, Mr. Trump declared the death of Soleimani a victory for freedom.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” the president said, while critics of his decision fear the strike will prompt retaliation or endless war.
Reporters had expected to first hear from the president first at his 5 p.m. campaign event with evangelical Christians in Miami, but journalists traveling in the president’s motorcade were sent back to Mar-a-Lago for the last-minute address.
“We take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over,” the president said of Soleimani. “Soleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years. What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago.”
The president said the U.S. does not want regime change, but added that Iran’s proxy fighters must stand down. The U.S., Mr. Trump warned, is “ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary” regarding Iran.
Mr. Trump exited the stage without taking questions from reporters.
On Thursday night, after the military strike, the president’s only comment was to tweet an American flag. On Friday morning, the president added that Soleimani was “was plotting to kill many more” Americans, but “got caught” first.
Despite the strike, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has insisted the U.S. is committed to deescalation in the region.
Leading Democratic members of Congress have voiced concerns that they were not notified and expressed doubts that the president possessed the authority to conduct the strike without congressional approval. Lawmakers and experts have also voiced concern that the escalation will prompt retaliation and unforeseen consequences from Iran.
The “Gang of Eight” leaders in Congress expect to be briefed next week.