Jan 12, 2020

GOP Sen. Mike Lee says Iran briefing did not mention plots against 4 embassies

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the Trump administration did not brief him and other members of Congress that Iran was allegedly plotting attacks on four U.S. embassies, as President Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News on Friday.

Why it matters: The administration has come under fire for declining to provide specifics about the nature of the "imminent" threat that prompted the president to order the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

  • On Friday, Trump told Fox News' Laura Ingraham: "I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies." He did not provide evidence for his claim.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that he shares the belief that there "probably" could have been attacks against additional embassies, but that he "didn't see" a piece of evidence to bolster that assessment.

The big picture: Lee, who is traditionally supportive of Trump and the administration, called the Iran briefing that officials gave on Wednesday "insulting and demeaning." Lee said that he will vote in favor of a Senate war powers resolution to curb potential military action against Iran.

Go deeper: Lee calls Soleimani briefing the "worst" he's ever seen

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Esper says he "didn't see" specific evidence of Iranian threats to 4 embassies

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.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 12, 2020

Pompeo declines to appear for testimony on Soleimani airstrike

Mike Pompeo on Jan. 10. Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Monday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declined to attend a committee hearing tomorrow on the Trump administration's decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Why it matters: The administration's mixed messaging on the justification for the airstrike on Soleimani has created doubt among some lawmakers about the "imminent threat" the administration claimed he posed to U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Go deeperArrowJan 13, 2020

Biden: "I would leave troops in the Middle East"

As tensions remain high between the U.S. and Iran, former Vice President Joe Biden said he would leave troops in the Middle East to continue fighting ISIS, and accused President Trump of lying about Iran's imminent attack against American embassies to keep troops in the region.

"I think it's a mistake to pull out the small number of troops that are there now to deal with ISIS. What's happened is, now that he's gone ahead, the president and started this whole process moving, what's happening?"
 "We -- ISIS is going to reconstitute itself. We're in a position where we have to pull our forces out. Americans have to leave the entire region. And quite frankly, I think [Trump has] flat-out lied about saying that the reason he went after -- the reason he made the strike was because our embassies were about to be bombed."
— Former Vice President Joe Biden
Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020