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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that he "didn't see" specific evidence that Iran was targeting four U.S. embassies, as President Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News, but that he does share the president's overall concerns.

Why it matters: The controversy over Trump's comments reflects a broader mistrust over the administration's claims that there was intelligence showing Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani posed an "imminent" threat to U.S. forces.

  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the administration did not brief Congress that Iran was allegedly plotting attacks on four U.S. embassies.
  • House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on CBS shortly after Esper that the Gang of Eight — a group of top lawmakers who can be briefed on classified intelligence by the executive branch — was not told about the threats either. Schiff accused Trump of "fudging" intelligence.
  • Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) tweeted after Esper's appearance: "The administration didn’t present evidence to Congress regarding even one embassy. The four embassies claim seems to be totally made up. And they have never presented evidence of imminence—a necessary condition to act without congressional approval—with respect to any of this."

The "Face the Nation" exchange:

ESPER: "What the president said was he believed that there probably could have been attacks against additional embassies. I shared that view. I know other members of the national security team shared that view. That's why I deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites throughout the region."
MARGARET BRENNAN: "Probably and could have been — that sounds more like an assessment than a specific, tangible threat with a decisive piece of intelligence."
ESPER: "Well, the president didn't say there was a tangible, he didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said it he probably, he believed —"
BRENNAN: "Are you saying there wasn't one?"
ESPER: "I didn't see one with regard to four embassies."

Go deeper: Trump's national security adviser claims Iran more likely to negotiate now

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.