Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” when asked if there was specific evidence that showed Iran planned to attack four American embassies, as President Trump has claimed.
Esper made the comment on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. On Friday, Trump spoke to Fox News and used the claim of four US embassies being in peril as a motivating factor that led to the drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Esper added, “I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country.”
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
On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration did not have precise information about the Iranian threat. “We don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where but it was real,” he said.
Also on Sunday, Esper chose the path of avoidance when posed the same question by CNN’s Jake Tapper, saying, “I’m not going to discuss intelligence matters here on the show.”
Tapper then said, “The President did, though.”
To which Esper replied, “It’s the President’s prerogative.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper: "There was intelligence that there was an intent to target the US embassy in Baghdad. What the President said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/CNwo6PLK41
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 12, 2020
More than a week after the strike on Soleimani, the Trump administration is still finding it hard to express a clear and coherent message on the topic. So far none of the lawmakers who received a classified briefing on the strike have reported hearing anything about threats to U.S. embassies.
On Friday, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the Washington Post “I feel like I would have remembered if they would have presented that kind of intel at the briefing. It sounds to me like the administration is panicking a little bit about the soundness of their rationale and deciding to share information with Fox News that they aren’t willing to share with Congress.”