Trump, Putin discuss Venezuela in phone talks

Trump, Putin discuss Venezuela in phone talks

Trump, Putin discuss Venezuela in phone talks

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Venezuela during wide-ranging telephone talks on May 3, the White House said.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump had made clear to Putin "that the United States stand with the people of Venezuela."          

She said they also touched on trade, North Korea and the situation in Ukraine, during their talks- which lasted almost an hour and a half according to Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

In the meantime, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan dismissed concerns about a potential intelligence failure on Venezuela like the one that preceded the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and said top U.S. officials had held talks at the Pentagon on May 3.

Trump's strategy on Venezuela has come under growing scrutiny as President Nicolas Maduro remains in power, raising questions about the way ahead for opposition leader Juan Guaido, who the United States and some 50 countries recognize as the legitimate head of state.

U.S. officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, had expected broader defections from the Venezuelan military in support of Guaido after he called on the armed forces to help oust Maduro on May 2.

"I don't feel like we have an intelligence gap. I think we have very good reporting," Shanahan told reporters, when asked about comparisons to gaps in intelligence that preceded the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. His remarks followed a meeting at the Pentagon that included Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Navy Admiral Craig Faller, who oversees U.S. forces in Latin America.

"We have multiple sources that we constantly sample, and then we have all sorts of other ways of doing collection ... I feel very confident in the quality and the accuracy of the information that we are getting," he said.

Earlier this week, Bolton said Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court chief judge Maikel Moreno and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala had told the opposition that Maduro needed to give up power to Guaido.

None of them, however, have publicly split with Maduro and Padrino stood beside Maduro as he delivered an address on Thursday.

The Trump administration says the men backed out of the plan.

"The takeaway is, if you make a commitment, follow through," a senior U.S. administration official said, explaining why Bolton named the officials publicly.

Prior to the invasion in Iraq, President George W. Bush and top aides made the case for intervening by citing intelligence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and was secretly developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Both claims were proved false. Bush and his aides had exaggerated the available intelligence, relied on dubious claims from Iraqi exiles and ignored contradictory information.