White House criticizes ‘lazy’ MSNBC report on Trump’s Qatar knowledge
The White House is pushing back on an MSNBC report that President Trump was not aware there are U.S. troops stationed in Qatar.
“This was irresponsible and lazy ‘reporting’ that shouldn’t have happened when the actual facts were readily available,” White House senior assistant press secretary Michael Short said in a statement to The Hill on Friday.
The Trump administration pushed back after an unnamed source told MSNBC’s Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace that they weren’t sure “if the president knew there were Americans stationed in Qatar.”
Following the White House pushback, Williams acknowledged on the air Friday afternoon that Trump did “talk about U.S. service members being in Qatar in a speech” more than two weeks ago.
“You mentioned Qatar in response to a conversation we had on the air yesterday about a situation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar that you just mentioned and where U.S. troops are stationed,” Williams told Wallace.
“The White House points out today that the president did, in fact, talk about U.S. service members being in Qatar in a speech he made in Riyadh on May 21. He said Qatar, which hosts the U.S. central command, is a crucial, strategic partner.”
The on-air report criticized by the White House came Thursday, shortly after former FBI Director James Comey testified on Capitol Hill, when the conversation turned to a decision by several Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut travel and diplomatic ties with Qatar. Trump applauded the action Tuesday on Twitter.
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” Trump wrote, claiming credit for the move. “They said they would take a hard line on funding. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
The tweet was characterized by Williams on Thursday as almost setting “the region on fire” on social media.
“I would love to know what the president’s dealings with the situation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia was today, because he almost set the region on fire on Twitter,” Williams said to Wallace, a former member of the George W. Bush administration.
“A person familiar with his thinking told us both yesterday they’re not sure the president knew there were Americans stationed in Qatar,” Williams said.
Wallace cut the president some slack in her response to Williams.
“In fairness, presidents rely on their national security team to brief them on the details of a crisis and a new president especially gets to know his national security in the moment of a crisis,” Wallace said.
“So I don’t have any reason to suspect that he [Trump] is the cause of what’s happening in Qatar, but I think it is fair to say that if there is a crisis, this was the first time he was briefed on exactly where our bases are in the region.”
Trump specifically noted in a speech delivered recently in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that Qatar “hosts the U.S. Central Command.”
“In Mosul, American troops are supporting Kurds, Sunnis and Shias fighting together for their homeland. Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner,” Trump said in a speech to Arab leaders on May 21.
“Our longstanding partnership with Kuwait and Bahrain continue to enhance security in the region,” he added.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Friday for several countries to ease a blockade against Qatar, while saying the country did need to address its neighbor’s concerns about terrorist financing.
Updated: 3:30 p.m.
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