Jan 13, 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.

The big picture: President Trump said in an interview with Fox News last week that the U.S. preemptively killed Soleimani because he was planning "immediate" attacks on "probably" four U.S. embassies.

  • On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he "didn't see" specific evidence that Iran was targeting four embassies, but that he shared the president's belief that additional embassies besides the one in Baghdad could be attacked.

Details: Instead of sitting for testimony, Pompeo will be in California attending meetings with U.S., Japanese and South Korean technology companies and delivering remarks at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, according to the State Department.

  • A State Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What they're saying:

"I am disappointed and frustrated that Secretary Pompeo will not appear before the committee tomorrow. Each passing day raises new questions about the strike that killed General Soleimani. Was there really an imminent threat?" Was it part of a larger operation? What was the legal justification? What is the path forward? With the wildly muddled explanations coming from the administration, the Secretary should welcome the opportunity to make the case and answer questions before the American people. The committee expects to hear from him soon.
— Chairman Engel

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