Defense Secretary Esper elaborates on Trump’s statement that four US embassies were under threat from Iran

Defense Secretary Esper elaborates on Trump’s statement that four US embassies were under threat from Iran

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U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday said that he "shared" President Donald Trump's view that multiple U.S. embassies were under imminent threat from Iran, prompting preemptive defensive action by U.S. forces that led to the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Trump made the remarks during an exclusive interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham Friday following accusations from Democrats of not providing solid evidence of impending attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities in the region.

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“I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies,” Trump said. “But Baghdad certainly would have been the lead. But I think it would have been four embassies, could have been military bases, could have been a lot of other things too. But it was imminent and then all of a sudden, he was gone.”

During an appearance on CBS on Sunday, Esper said: “What the president said was he believed that there probably and could have been attacks against additional embassies. The president didn't say there was a tangible — he didn't cite a specific piece of evidence.”

Asked by Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan if there was a “decisive piece of evidence” of imminent attacks, Esper said, “I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.”

“What he said is he probably, he believed, could have been. shared that view. I know other members of the national security team shared that view,” he added.

Esper also said that specific information about the imminent attack was shared with the so-called Gang of Eight, a group of eight bipartisan congressional leaders, but he himself was not in on the briefings.

“That information was shared with the Gang of Eight, all that exceptional intelligence shared with the Gang of Eight, not the broader membership of the Congress,” Esper said, according to the Washington Examiner.

“What the briefer said to me coming out of that meeting was his assessment that most, if not all the members thought that the intelligence was persuasive,” he said, “and that the Gang of Eight did not think that it should be released to the broader members of Congress.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a key figure in the impeachment against Trump, refuted Esper's claims in an appearance on CBS, saying the defense secretary was "fudging" the answer. “And so when you hear the president out there on Fox, he is fudging the intelligence. And when you hear the secretary say, well, that wasn't what the intelligence said, but that's my personal belief, he is fudging,” Schiff said.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said in an appearance on ABC that what Trump said during his Fox interview was "very consistent with the intelligence which showed that Soleimani was plotting to kill Americans.”

“I'd love to release the intelligence. The reason we don't … is because that same intelligence, those same streams and channels are what allows us to protect Americans going forward. So rather than have a short-term political win, release the intelligence and say ‘I told you so,’ we want to keep Americans safe … going forward,” O'Brien said.

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