Top Trump administration officials decline to provide evidence that Soleimani would attack 4 US embassies

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tells CNN's Jake Tapper that the killing of Qasem Soleimani was justified in light of threats against the US.

Posted: Jan 13, 2020 5:50 AM
Updated: Jan 13, 2020 5:50 AM

Days after President Donald Trump claimed the US killed Iran's top military general because he was targeting four American embassies, two of the President's top national security officials are declining to provide evidence of the intelligence used to justify the US drone strike.

In interviews that aired Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and national security adviser Robert O'Brien both did not cite specific intelligence information when pressed by their interviewers. Trump said in an interview Friday that he approved the military attack earlier this month that killed Qasem Soleimani because he believed the Iranian general was targeting the embassies.

"The President never said there was specific intelligence to four different embassies," Esper told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." But Esper said he shared the President's belief that the embassies were threatened by Soleimani.

"What the President said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well. He said that he believed that they probably, that they could have been targeting the embassies in the region,"Esper said. And in an interview with CBS that aired Sunday, Esper said he "didn't see" a specific threat against four embassies in the intelligence.

Similarly, O'Brien conceded in an interview on Sunday with ABC that it was unclear whether embassies or US military bases would be targeted, but insisted Trump's claim about four embassies being threatened was "consistent with the intelligence."

The messaging this weekend from the top officials adds to an already complicated explanation of the intelligence the Trump administration claims was behind the US attack that killed Soleimani. In recent days, Trump's national security officials have contradicted each other about how imminent a threat the Iranian general posed, whether they had specific intelligence on the threat and even what that threat was, with Trump saying one thing then another, while officials offered varying explanations.

Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN last week that the administration's "public messaging has raised all kinds of questions about whether or not there was sufficient motivation to launch an attack to kill arguable the second most powerful and important man in Iran."

Both O'Brien and Esper continually pointed on Sunday to the concerns about the US Embassy in Baghdad, indicating the most specific intelligence was in regard to a threat there. But neither official provided intelligence indicating an imminent attack on all four.

"We were very concerned about the situation. We had exquisite intelligence," O'Brien told NBC's "Meet the Press."

When O'Brien appeared on "Fox News Sunday," he said the administration knew there were threats to American facilities.

"Look, it's always difficult, even with the exquisite intelligence that we have, to know exactly what the targets are but it's certainly consistent with the intelligence to assume that they would have hit embassies in at least four countries," he said.

O'Brien continued: "But again, we knew that there were threats to American facilities. Now whether they were bases, embassies -- you know, it's always hard until the attack happens, but we had very strong intelligence they were looking to kill and maim Americans at US facilities in the region."

The messages from the Trump administration have taken some lawmakers by surprise, with Democrats and Republicans saying they were not informed of the threat to four embassies during an intelligence briefing last week.

"I didn't hear anything about that. And several of my colleagues have said the same. So, that was news to me," Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah told Tapper on Sunday.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, wrote in a tweet last week that "if there was evidence of imminent attacks on four embassies, the Administration would have said so at our Wednesday briefing."

"They didn't."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 667262

Reported Deaths: 12737
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion913541660
Lake48729891
Allen36175646
Hamilton32489398
St. Joseph30361514
Elkhart25536420
Vanderburgh21343382
Tippecanoe20240205
Johnson16485363
Porter16077281
Hendricks15955302
Clark12079182
Madison11810323
Vigo11699234
Monroe10440164
Delaware9899179
LaPorte9838201
Howard9127203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7531147
Hancock7471134
Warrick7456153
Floyd7269173
Wayne6661192
Grant6465158
Boone618691
Morgan6135129
Dubois5942112
Dearborn551570
Cass5489100
Marshall5456105
Henry544395
Noble513878
Jackson465967
Shelby463591
Lawrence4197113
Gibson405585
Harrison404065
Clinton397653
Montgomery391984
DeKalb388278
Miami358463
Knox357886
Whitley352438
Huntington350877
Steuben340455
Putnam334660
Wabash333976
Ripley328062
Adams326349
Jasper319343
White298553
Jefferson296574
Daviess286196
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261732
Wells259175
Scott252150
LaGrange242670
Clay241644
Randolph226577
Spencer219630
Jennings216944
Washington213327
Sullivan203839
Fountain202842
Starke190051
Owen184254
Fulton179937
Jay178828
Carroll176919
Perry174136
Orange171451
Rush165722
Vermillion161543
Franklin160135
Tipton150041
Parke140216
Pike128633
Blackford120727
Pulaski107844
Newton96832
Brown95340
Crawford92613
Benton92513
Martin80314
Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 978471

Reported Deaths: 17501
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1130371251
Cuyahoga969331881
Hamilton739231067
Montgomery47536923
Summit40720831
Butler35859531
Lucas35802720
Stark29602826
Warren22593275
Lorain22218424
Mahoning19586551
Lake18564332
Clermont18541205
Delaware16614121
Licking15096194
Fairfield14653188
Trumbull14437424
Greene13664221
Medina13531237
Clark12394256
Wood11670170
Portage11140172
Allen10822216
Richland10376188
Miami10065194
Muskingum8244117
Columbiana8174210
Pickaway8096111
Tuscarawas8083232
Marion8021127
Wayne7939199
Erie6972146
Ross6178132
Geauga6118142
Hancock6032121
Scioto600988
Ashtabula6002154
Lawrence527886
Union516741
Darke5052116
Belmont5000137
Huron4862108
Jefferson4843137
Sandusky4800112
Washington475596
Seneca4738111
Athens466449
Mercer459781
Auglaize456682
Shelby442679
Knox4056105
Putnam400593
Madison395755
Fulton383461
Ashland383083
Brown375252
Defiance374088
Crawford360198
Logan357673
Preble354187
Clinton342755
Highland328551
Ottawa325471
Williams303568
Jackson292046
Champaign291149
Guernsey288945
Perry271348
Fayette270143
Morrow261637
Henry247961
Hardin247359
Holmes244497
Coshocton241156
Van Wert230357
Gallia223938
Adams218339
Pike217328
Wyandot212450
Hocking195154
Carroll182143
Paulding161134
Meigs136031
Noble129233
Monroe117637
Morgan102220
Harrison100731
Vinton76713
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 65°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 64°
Huntington
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 64°
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 65°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 65°
Breezy, Warm Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events