Pence Says Trump Administration Not Convinced Iran Leadership Authorized Shooting of U.S. Drone

Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that one of the reasons the administration of President Donald Trump has not yet responded militarily to last week's shooting down of an American surveillance drone by Irani forces is that they are not yet convinced that the strike against the unmanned aircraft had been approved by leadership in Tehran.

Appearing on CNN's State of the Union Sunday morning, Pence was asked by host Jake Tapper about Trump's decision on Thursday to call off a planned retaliatory strike against Iran at the last minute. The president has claimed that he decided against launching the attack when he received a human casualty estimate that he determined was out of proportion to the inciting incident.

us iran attack gulf drone
An RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data in this photo shared by the U.S. Air Force, October 27, 2014. A similar model was shot down by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in what they say was Iranian territory, but the Pentagon argues was international airspace. U.S. Air Force

Tapper pointed out to Pence what a number of military experts have also said: That it seemed hard to believe Trump would not have received that casualty estimate until shortly before the strike was set to occur.

"What I can tell you without talking about the details of those deliberations is that the president was provided with casualty assessments and a whole range of information relative to the military strikes," said Pence. "But as the president indicated, late in the process there were more specific projections given to him, relative to the targets that he was prepared to use force against and he concluded that it was not a proportionate response to shooting down an unmanned American aircraft."

That's when Pence mentioned a second aspect to Trump's decision to halt the strike.

"And also, the president had doubts as to whether or not the downing of our unmanned aircraft was actually authorized at the highest levels," he told Tapper. "I can't speak about intelligence that the United States has with regard to that, but you heard the president reflect openly —

"That it might have been a rogue general or something..." noted Tapper.

Continued Pence: "We're not convinced that it was authorized at the highest levels. The president put a regard for human life first. He also put on the table that we want better for the people of Iran, but Iran needs to understand that the United States of America will never allow them to obtain a usable nuclear weapon. This is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and the truth that the world has seen over the last 40 years is that the ayatollahs in Iran have no regard for human life; they sow terrorism around the region, around the world and it is unacceptable that they would ever obtain a nuclear weapon as a threat to us, to our ally Israel, or to the wider world."

On Iran shooting down a US military drone, “we’re not convinced that it was authorized at the highest levels,” Vice President Mike Pence says to CNN’s @JakeTapper. #CNNSOTU

— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) June 23, 2019