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

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President Trump 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.”

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 Esper 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 Meadows, 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. 

Tags Beirut explosion Donald Trump Lebanon Mark Esper Mark Meadows
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