Trump has not asked military for options in Venezuela

The Defense Department (DOD) is not readying itself for military movement in Venezuela, despite claims from President Trump last week that a “possible military option” was on the table for the volatile South American country.

The DOD has “a range of options,” for Venezuela, but Trump has not yet asked the department for any such plans, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said Monday.{mosads}

“Our job is to provide options to the president, so if called upon we would have a military option for the president. That has not occurred yet, so the short answer is, we have a range of options,” Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.

Manning could not say what specific options were available, adding, “I can’t speculate what that is because we haven’t been asked to provide any options.”

Later Monday, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters he would not discuss whether Trump spoke to him about Venezuela before suggesting there were military options.

“I never discuss my discussions with the commander in chief,” he said at the Pentagon.

When asked whether he was concerned that Trump’s comments would hurt his ability to do his job, Mattis replied: “No.”

“I would also add that president [Nicolás] Maduro has so disappointed his own people over the years, I think that’s his problem. He’s got a fundamental political problem, which is none of his own people, or at least not very many of them, trust him,” Mattis said.

Trump said on Friday that he wouldn’t rule out military involvement in Venezuela after civil unrest has roiled the country in recent weeks, following the results of an election to rewrite the country’s constitution.

The Trump administration also imposed new sanctions on Maduro and his associates after the vote.

“Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering and they’re dying,” Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf club. “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”

Trump declined to say whether American troops would lead a possible military effort in Venezuela, saying: “We don’t talk about it.”

He then added that “a military option is certainly something that we could pursue.”

Manning said Trump and Mattis “are in close and continuous contact” on the issue.

– This story was updated at 4:56 p.m.

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