President Trump on Friday denied the U.S. was involved in a failed attempt to overthrow Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, saying if he ever decided to nab Maduro he “wouldn’t send a small little group.”
“If I wanted to go into Venezuela, I wouldn’t make a secret about it. I wouldn’t send a small little group, it’d be called an Army,” he told "Fox & Friends."
Two Americans were among those arrested for their alleged participation in the botched raid, Maduro announced earlier this week. The two U.S. citizens were identified as Luke Denman and Airan Berry, both previously U.S. Special Forces soldiers, also known as Green Berets.
An Associated Press investigation had detailed how Jordan Goudreau, through his Florida private security firm, had teamed up with a retired Venezuelan army official to train at secret camps in Colombia dozens of deserters from Venezuela’s security forces for a mission targeting Maduro, for whose capture the U.S. has offered a $15 million bounty.
The U.S. along with more than 100 other countries does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, instead recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido. It has imposed sanctions on the country to try and put further pressure on the Maduro regime, under whom the country has descended into economic and social ruin.
Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have written to the administration wanting answers and expressing “alarm” about the raid.
“Maduro is a dictator, and the Venezuelan people deserve to live in a democracy again," the letter says. “But that will only be achieved through vigorous and effective diplomacy, not martial adventurism.”
But U.S. officials accused Venezuela of spinning a “disinformation” campaign in trying to blame the U.S. government.
“As President Trump and [Defense Secretary Mark] Esper said, the United States government was not involved in recent events in Venezuela. There is a major disinformation campaign underway by the Maduro regime, making it difficult to separate facts from propaganda,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News late Tuesday. “We are making efforts to learn more, including about the activities of two U.S. Citizens who are reportedly in the custody of the former regime, as well as Mr. Goudreau.”
Trump doubled down on that on Friday, saying it was a “rogue group” made up of Venezuelans and “I think people from other countries also as a group.”
"This was not a good attack, I think they were caught before they ever hit land,” he said. "If we ever did anything with Venezuela it wouldn't be that way. It'd be slightly different. It'd be called an invasion."
Fox News' Hollie McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.