President Donald Trump said that the use of US military force in Venezuela is still on the table amid its ongoing political crisis and that he turned down a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro several months ago.
The President’s comments came in an interview taped Friday with CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” in which he also declined to say what would cause him to use the military in Venezuela, noting only that “it’s an option” for his administration.
When Brennan asked Trump what would make him use military force in the country and what the national security interest for such action would be, he said, “Well, I don’t want to say that, but certainly it’s something that on the – it’s an option,” according to the transcript of the interview.
Last month, self-declared interim president of Venezuela Juan Guaido refused to rule out accepting US military support, saying that the Venezuelan people want to end Maduro’s dictatorship with “whatever pressure is necessary,” but cautioned that he hopes it doesn’t come to that.
Trump also told Brennan that Maduro asked to meet “a number of months ago,” a request he said he denied.
“I’ve turned it down because we’re very far along in the process,” Trump said. “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.”
If Maduro requested the meeting months ago as Trump said, it would have come well before the Trump administration began recognizing Guaido as the leader of Venezuela in late January.
In his interview with Brennan, Trump said he turned down the meeting with Maduro due to the “really horrible things” that had been happening in the country.
“I decided at the time, ‘no’ because so many really horrible things have been happening in Venezuela when you look at that country. That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world which is a very important part of the world,” Trump said. “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. So, I think the process is playing out – very, very big tremendous protests.”
CNN’s Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this report.