Trump is 'clearly trying to navigate a fine line': GOP lawmaker on Iran

On "This Week," Martha Raddatz discusses President Trump's response on Iran with the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry.
6:27 | 06/23/19

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Transcript for Trump is 'clearly trying to navigate a fine line': GOP lawmaker on Iran
Iran, our next guest, Texas congressman Mac Thornberry, was there in the situation room. He's the top Republican on the armed services committee. Congressman Thornberry, good morning. You were with president trump at the white house Thursday afternoon with hill leadership being briefed about the drone shoot-down and possible response. Right after that meeting you issued a statement with other Republicans saying president trump and his national security team remain clear-eyed on the situation and what must be done in response to increased Iranian aggression. So when you left the white house, were you expecting a retaliatory strike? One of the things about that meeting, Martha, there were equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. The president, after laying out the intelligence situation, was really listening to everyone's views. And one of the -- my takeaways was that there was no one around the table who said we should do nothing. Everyone agreed that shooting down an unarmed American aircraft deserved a response. Now, there was some variation of views about whether it should be kinetic or whether sanctions, cyber, the level of response, but most everybody thought it should be on the lower end of the range of possibilities that the president was provided. Now, he didn't tell us what he was going to do but I think it is to his credit that before the president took action he wanted to just listen to Republicans and Democrat leaders in congress and see what they thought, and he listened. So what was your reaction when you heard he wasn't going ahead with a kinetic or military strike? I think it's a hard judgment call. The president is clearly trying to navigate a fine line to show that you cannot attack Americans and American military equipment without having a response. At the same time, he's very conscious of not getting on an escalatory ladder that leads to a military conflict that neither side wants. You want to be strong enough to show you can't push us around but you also don't want get on a path that takes you in a dangerous direction. That's what he's trying to navigate and so -- President trump -- you've got the additional sanctions. You've got these cyber attacks. Do you think that's enough? In your eyes, would it be proportional if he does anything less than a military retaliatory strike after shooting down an $130 million drone in an unprovoked attack? That's really going to depend on the Iranians. This story is not over and the question is how do they respond to this relatively restrained response by president trump. Now, if they come and say, okay, we need to talk, we don't want to let this get out of hand, that's one thing. If they go back to mining tankers, shooting at American aircraft, the sort of pattern of activity we've seen since April, then obviously the president has a whole range of additional responses that he could employ. But he's given himself a lot of headroom if you will. There are a number of other military and probably other actions that could be taken if the Iranians decide that they want to continue this aggressive, provocative sort of behavior. But they have already shot down a drone and I want to remind you of some of the language that president trump has made in the past. Let me read from a year ago to Iranian president rouhani. Never ever threaten the united States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death. Be cautious. Now he is basically saying he appreciated them not shooting down a manned aircraft. He said perhaps the strike on the drone was just by some loose and stupid person. Is he softening his stance? Well, I think he's giving the Iranians every opportunity to back out of this cycle of increasing violence that they have embarked upon for the past few months, giving them every opportunity to get out of that and go towards a more productive negotiating sort of path. And you know, I think it's hard to criticize the president for giving them every opportunity, but there's obviously a limit to that and that's why I say if Iran goes back to mining tankers, the sorts of things they've been doing here lately, then we have a whole range of military and other responses which we can employ. And congressman, I want to just -- And the president will look to do that. Congressman, I just want to quickly turn to immigration. President trump reversed his decision on Iran and then yesterday suddenly reverses decision about mass deportation that he said would start tomorrow. What's going on here? Well, I think as the president said, he heard a lot of concerns from some folks on the hill. He decided to delay the decision. The challenge is if there is a lawful deportation order, that is the law of the land and it is the job of the executive branch in our system of government to enforce the law. Now, in the bigger sense of things, I hope that we can have folks in congress and the administration sit down and at least work through some of these immigration issues. Right now we're trying to get some additional funding to take care of the migrants who are at the border. That's been far harder than it should be and it's humanitarian sort of things. This political standoff when it comes to immigration and border security has got to end. Even if we don't agree on everything, there ought to be some steps we can take together where we do agree. Okay, thanks very much for joining us this morning, congressman Thornberry. Up next, Cory booker live

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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