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Republican Sen. Rick Scott On Iran And Iraq


At this time last night, the conflict between the U.S. and Iran seemed to be increasing as Iran fired 22 missiles on two large military bases that housed American troops. There were no reported casualties. And this morning, President Trump and his administration described the attack as a de-escalation.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.

SHAPIRO: The administration briefed members of Congress today. In another part of the program, we talk with a top House Democrat. And now we are joined by a Senate Republican, Rick Scott of Florida, who serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Welcome to the program.

RICK SCOTT: Well, Ari, thank you. I sure hope it's a de-escalation. I mean, I don't think anybody wants to go to war. And we - you know, we just hate this conflict.

SHAPIRO: I mean, that was going to be my first question. Do you agree with the president that this appears to be winding down?

SCOTT: Well, I mean, that's what - you know, today that's what it appears, but you don't know. I think the president was right to kill Soleimani. He was a terrorist. He was a thug, murderer, killed a lot of American citizens. It's - Iran is not - you know, they've done a lot of provocative things over the last few years, especially this year. So hopefully, you know, this will stop. The president clearly has now said he's - the standard is if you're going to attack American troops, you're going to - you know, he's not going to tolerate it, which I think is the right thing to do. We shouldn't be appeasing.

SHAPIRO: You say the president was right to kill Soleimani. I want to ask you a related but slightly different question, which is that the president and others in the administration have often said that there was an imminent attack but that they can't share the intelligence about what that might have been. Did you see that intelligence or did you get briefed today on something that gives you any more information about that claim?

SCOTT: Well, we - I got a classified briefing, so clearly there's things that they told me today that I can't talk about. But I'm comfortable. I mean, Secretary Pompeo was there. Secretary Esper was there. You know, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley, was there, so - and head of the CIA was there. So I'm very comfortable that - and I talked to President Trump yesterday morning. I'm very comfortable that there is a belief that there was an imminent threat. And by the way, let's look at this...

SHAPIRO: Just to clarify - I want to be clear. Are you comfortable with their judgment? Or have you actually seen intelligence that you say, ah, yes, now I understand what they're talking about?

SCOTT: I've seen enough to believe that - I believe that they were justified in what they did. And I think it's - we have - this might be the chance that we have to get Iran to start acting like a normal country. I mean, their economy is getting killed. They're not acting in the best interest of the citizens. Maybe they'll come to their senses and say, you know, America is going to stand up now, and we've got to stop supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, stop attacking American embassies, things like that.

SHAPIRO: Do you really think that this is going to make Iran end its decades-long support for Hezbollah and Hamas? It seems like a leap.

SCOTT: I think it's a leap. I agree with you. I think it's - it would - you know, you can always hope. Here's what we do know. This president does not want to invade and go to war with Iran. This president wants to bring troops home. I agree with those things. So I hope that this was the wake-up call for the Ayatollah that, you know, one, his economy is in horrible shape, and the - America is not going to back down, and so he's going to have to start - stop doing what he's doing. I mean, we can always hope. And hopefully, this was what the president said was a de-escalation. Well, you know, time will tell.

SHAPIRO: We're seeing a pattern with this and the killing of the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, where Democrats have said they were not briefed in a timely fashion. At some point, there will be a Democratic president, and Republicans will be the out party. Do you worry that issues that were once nonpartisan are becoming politicized?

SCOTT: Oh, absolutely. I talked to Senator McConnell, and he got briefed on the Osama bin Laden killing after the fact by Vice President Biden. And the first thing he said is great job. I don't know what Democrat has said to the president in this case great job.

SHAPIRO: Well, many of them have said that they were happy to see Soleimani killed, that he had blood on his hands. But they've expressed real concern that they were not briefed as quickly as Republicans were briefed. And that's what I'm asking about.

SCOTT: Well, I think everybody ought to be briefed. You know, it's - well, there's a process here. I'm a brand-new senator. I've been here one year.


SCOTT: But there's a small group that gets briefed first, and I understand that. We all would like to have as much information as we can. At the same time, the president's got to have the authority to be able to do his job.

SHAPIRO: That's Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Thank you for speaking with us today.

SCOTT: Thanks, Ari. Have a great day. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.