Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Monday that "we will follow the laws of armed conflict" as they relate to the targeting of cultural sites, which is considered a war crime, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The remark appears to contradict President Trump's threat Sunday to target 52 Iranian sites — including ones "important" to Iranian culture — as a response to a potential retaliatory attack by Iran.

  • Appearing on the cable talk shows Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a similarly vague response. Pompeo refused to directly disavow Trump's statement, but said that "we'll behave lawfully" and "inside the system."

But, but, but: Trump has continued to double down on the threat.

  • On Sunday, the president told reporters: "They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way."

Go deeper: The Met calls Trump's threat to target Iranian cultural sites "abhorrent"

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Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

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Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Commission on Presidential Debates wants changes

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that it plans to implement changes to rules for the remaining debates, after Tuesday night's head-to-head between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was practically incoherent for most of the night.

What they are saying: "Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the CPD said in a statement.

Trump says he doesn't know who Proud Boys are after telling them to "stand by"

President Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't know who the Proud Boys are, after saying at the presidential debate last night that the far-right group should "stand back and stand by" in response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacists.

Why it matters: The comments set off outrage and calls for clarification from a number of Republican senators. After being asked several times on Wednesday whether he will condemn white supremacy, Trump responded, "I have always denounced any form — any form of any of that, you have to denounce. But I also — Joe Biden has to say something about antifa."