Trump tempers his description of Beirut explosion as an attack: 'Nobody knows yet'

Trump tempers his description of Beirut explosion as an attack: 'Nobody knows yet'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE on Wednesday tempered his comments from the day before that the massive explosion in the capital of Lebanon was an "attack," telling reporters it is too soon to say whether the deadly incident was a deliberate act.

"Whatever happened, it's terrible," Trump said of the Beirut explosion during a press briefing. "But they don’t really know what it is. Nobody knows yet. At this moment they're looking — I mean, how can you say accident?"

"I don’t think anybody can say right now. We’re looking into it very strongly. …  I mean, you have some people think it was an attack and you have some people that think it wasn’t," he added. "In any event, it was a terrible event and a lot of people were killed and a tremendous number of people were badly wounded, injured."

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Trump's acknowledgment that the explosion, which has killed more than 100 people, may have been an accident came a day after he raised eyebrows by describing the blast as an "attack" despite no indication from Lebanese officials that was the case. The president said at the time that he had been briefed on the matter by generals.

"I met with some of our great generals, and they just seemed to feel that it was — this was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of event," Trump said Tuesday. "According to them — they would know better than I would — but they seem to think it was an attack, it was a bomb of some kind."

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Overnight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers MORE said Wednesday that "most believe" it was an accident, while the Lebanese government has said the explosion was likely caused by highly explosive material being stored at a major port in Beirut.

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSunday Shows: Trump's court pick dominates Former Homeland Security Secretary Johnson: 'Disconcerting' to see Trump, Meadows cast doubt on election security Meadows: 'There are different degrees of confidence' in FBI director MORE, in an interview on CNN shortly before the president clarified his comments, would not say himself if he believed the explosion was the result of a deliberate attack. But he defended Trump's interpretation, saying it was based on an initial briefing.

"Without sharing anything classified, I’ve been able to see a lot of what has taken place there. We’ll continue to evaluate that," Meadows continued. "Obviously, there’s no group that has claimed any responsibility but what the president shared with the American people is what he was briefed on."

Video of the massive blast went viral on social media. A giant plume of smoke was visible before an explosion that overturned cars, blew out windows, collapsed balconies and roofs and injured thousands of people.