Pompeo pushes back on NBC's Mitchell: 'You're not really wondering, Andrea'

Trump over the weekend said the U.S. was prepared to hit cultural sites in Iran if Tehran strikes American personnel or sites in response to the targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.
Legal experts have said hitting cultural sites would amount to a war crime and Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperISIS Task Force director resigns from Pentagon post in continued post-election purge The perils of a US troop drawdown to the Afghan army and tribes Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia MORE on Monday indicated such actions were not on the table, telling reporters that the Pentagon would “follow the laws of armed conflict.”

Mitchell questioned whether Pompeo would also push back on the president’s directive.

“You’re not really wondering, Andrea, you’re not really wondering,” Pompeo snapped back, saying that military action plans are legally vetted before being presented to the president and insisting there was no daylight between him and Trump.

“I was unambiguous on Sunday,” the secretary continued, “It is completely consistent with what the president has said, every action we take will be consistent with international law and the American people can rest assured that that’s the case.”

The heated exchange came after Trump endured a barrage of criticism after tweeting over the weekend that the United States had compiled 52 targets — including those important to Iranian culture — that it would strike if Tehran were to take military action against American assets. 

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site?” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday, seeming to double down on the threat. “It doesn’t work that way.”

Trump’s advisers have largely tiptoed around his statements, with Pompeo insisting in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that any action the U.S. takes would be lawful.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? MORE told reporters Monday that Iran had strategic military sites that also could be considered cultural sites, while insisting that Trump did not say definitively that the administration would target cultural sites.

“The president has identified those sites and has said that it may happen if Iran retaliates in a certain way,” Conway said. “You have the president on the record. You have to read the entire thing.”

Pompeo on Tuesday further condemned the Islamic government as a grave danger to Iranian culture heritage.

“Let me tell you who has done damage to the Persian culture. It’s not the United States of America. It’s the ayatollah,” Pompeo said, insisting that the government has denied religious liberty and prevented the Persian culture from flourishing.

“The real risk to Persian culture is not the United States of America. There is no question about that.”