Amid scrutiny for authorizing the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Donald Trump recently suggested that the top Iranian general was planning to attack four U.S. embassies. Per The Hill, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday and said that — while he agreed that some degree of planning was underway — he did not see any intelligence supporting the notion that Iran was plotting four attacks.
“What the president said was he believed there probably and could’ve 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,” Esper said.
Esper added that Trump did not provide any “specific piece of evidence” for his claims, to which CBS host Margaret Brennan asked the former Raytheon lobbyist if that meant there was no evidence.
“I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” Esper responded. “What I’m saying is I share the presidents’ view.”
Esper echoed such sentiments during his interview on CNN‘s State of the Union. Although Esper backed Trump’s claims that Iran was attacking four embassies, he did not confirm there was any intelligence to support this view when pressed by host Jake Tapper.
“I’m not going to discuss intelligence matters here on this show.”
NEWS: @EsperDod tells @margbrennan he "didn't see" specific evidence showing Iran planned to strike 4 U.S. embassies, despite @realDonaldTrump saying an attack at multiple embassies was “imminent." Watch more of Esper's interview on @FacetheNation today. pic.twitter.com/1Nud8waok1
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 12, 2020
The lack of transparency with regards to intelligence supporting the Soleimani attack has been enough to draw backlash from Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, who blasted the briefing on the situation held last week by Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In Lee’s case, it pushed him to co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’ bill to freeze military funding for action against Iran without congressional authorization. Lee — along with Paul — also said he would support the non-binding War Powers resolution that recently passed the House of Representatives. The bill would require the president to gain congressional authorization before any further military action against Iran.
Democratic Sens. echoed Lee and Paul’s complaints. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut noted that if there were evidence for alleged “imminent attacks” on four U.S. embassies, it would have been outlined at the briefing mentioned above.
“They didn’t,” Murphy said.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia also confirmed that there was no evidence presented at the briefing he attended.
As The Inquisitr reported, a report by The New York Times suggests that the Trump administration was plotting Soleimani’s death for approximately 18 months, which continues to shed doubt on the claims of an imminent attack pushed by the president and his allies.