Jake Tapper: Mayor Pete, thanks so much for joining us. After the strike you called Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian general who was killed, you called him a threat to the safety and security of the United States. So are you saying that President Trump deserves some credit for the strike?
Pete Buttigieg: No, not until we know whether this was a good decision and how this decision was made, and the president has failed to demonstrate that. The secretary of State just now, when asked whether this strike prevented directly an attack, he did not prove, he did not demonstrate, he did not even claim that the answer was yes. Now, let’s be clear — Qassim Suleimani was a bad figure. He has American blood on his hands. None of us should shed a tear for his death. But just because he deserved it doesn’t mean it was the right strategic move. This is about consequences. This is one of the most volatile places in the world and we need answers on how this decision was reached, whether there was an alternative and whether the president has thought through the consequences — in particular for American lives, not just the troops who are on planes going to the Middle East right now, but US citizens around the world whose lives may be at risk because of the fallout from this action. Until we get answers on that, then this move is questionable to say the least.
Jake Tapper: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs has said that there was compelling intelligence of a significant campaign of violence that was going to be leveled against Americans within days, weeks, or months. If you were commander in chief and had the chairman of the Joint Chiefs who was bringing you information like that, do you think you would have ordered the strike?
Pete Buttigieg: I would never hesitate to use force if it was necessary in order to protect American lives. The question is, was it necessary and was it better than the alternative? It is not hard to believe that General Suleimani was in the middle of a campaign of violence. He was a walking campaign of violence. But when you’re dealing with the Middle East, you need to think about the next and the next and the next move, this is not checkers. And I’m not sure any of us really believe that this president and the people around him — especially given that he hasn’t even filled some of the key national security posts — is really going through all of the consequences of what could happen next. Even as we speak, it looks like there has been a suspension of anti-ISIS activities in Iraq just to deal with the fallout here. We need answers on whether this is part of a meaningful strategy, what choices were offered to the president and why he believed this was the best choice when we really haven’t seen the indication that it even served to prevent whatever attack they’re talking about. Remember, this was not a battlefield maneuver. We’re talking about a senior official. In what way did taking him out prevent an attack, and was it better than the alternatives? We just haven’t seen that. Let alone —
Jake Tapper: Let me just ask you, some of your Democratic opponents including senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who I’ll be talking to shortly, called the strike a “assassination.” They say it’s an assassination. Do you believe it was an assassination?
Pete Buttigieg: I am not interested in the terminology. I’m interested in the consequences and I’m interested in the process. Did the president have legal authority to do this? Why wasn’t Congress consulted? It seems like more people at Mar-a-Lago heard about this than people in the United States Congress who are a coequal branch of government with a responsibility to consult. Which of our allies were consulted? The real-world effects of this are going to go far beyond the things that we’re debating today and we need answers quickly.