Trump denies US government involved in foiled Venezuela attacks

President Trump on Tuesday denied any U.S.-involvement in a failed coup attempt in Venezuela for which two U.S. citizens were arrested.

Trump said he had just learned of the detention of the two men whom Venezuela accuses of being mercenaries.

"Whatever it is, we'll let you know," Trump told reporters at the White House before departing to Arizona. "But it has nothing to do with our government."

Venezuela's Attorney General Tarek William Saab gives a press conference regarding what the government calls a failed attack over the weekend aimed at overthrowing President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 4, 2020. 

Venezuela's Attorney General Tarek William Saab gives a press conference regarding what the government calls a failed attack over the weekend aimed at overthrowing President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 4, 2020.  (AP)

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Tuesday also denied U.S.-involvement, telling reporters that the “United States government had nothing to do with what’s happened in Venezuela in the last few days.”

Authorities in Venezuela identified the two men as Luke Denman and Airan Berry, both former U.S. special forces soldiers associated with the Florida-based private security firm Silvercorp USA.

The two ex-U.S. soldiers were detained Monday dozens of miles from the first attempted beach landing in a fishing village. Authorities say they've confiscated equipment and detained dozens of others.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro appeared on state television Monday claiming Denman and Berry were part of an operation to kill him that was backed by neighboring Colombia and the U.S.

“The United States government is fully and completely involved in this defeated raid,” Maduro said.

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A third U.S. ex-Green Beret and Silvercorp founder, Jordan Goudreau, claimed responsibility for leading "Operation Gideon," which was launched with an attempted beach landing before dawn on Sunday that left eight suspected attackers dead.

Goudreau said the operation was designed to capture--not kill--Maduro. He claimed he carried it out on a "shoestring budget" after signing an agreement with U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who denies having any relationship with Goudreau.

Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, cast doubt on U.S. involvement because of how unprepared the players appeared to be.

"It shocks me how insane they were," Vigil said. "They walked right into a coiled rattlesnake without even having minimally studied the capacity of the Venezuelan armed forces. There's no way the U.S. government would've supported an operation like this."

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The U.S. is among nearly 60 nations that back Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader, saying Maduro clings to power despite a sham election in 2018 that banned the most popular opposition candidates from running.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.