Defense Sec. 'Didn't See' Rationale for Trump's Big Move

And other quotes around the Sunday dial
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2020 12:20 PM CST
Mark Esper 'Didn't See' Rationale for Trump's Big Move
Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrives to brief members of the Senate on the details of the threat that prompted the U.S. to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

Was there a rationale for killing Iran's top general? Defense Secretary Mark Esper seemed to convey mixed messages Sunday on that hot-button topic, the New York Times reports. On CBS' Face the Nation, Esper cast some doubt on President Trump's claim that he ordered Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani's death because of an Iranian threat to strike four US embassies. "I didn't see one with regard to four embassies," said Esper, who added that "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." For more, including a barely veiled threat from Nancy Pelosi:

  • Belief: "What the president said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well," Esper said in another interview on CNN's State of the Union, per Politico. "He said that he believed that they probably, they could have been targeting the embassies in the region."

  • O'Brien: "Look, it's always difficult, even with the exquisite intelligence that we have, to know exactly what the targets are," said national security adviser Robert O'Brien on Fox News Sunday, per the Times. "We knew there were threats to American facilities, now whether they were bases, embassies—you know it's always hard until the attack happens."
  • Lee: "I didn't hear anything about [the four embassies claim]," Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said on CNN, per the Guardian, "and several of my colleagues have said the same so that was news to me. It certainly wasn't something I recall being mentioned at the classified briefing."
  • Kaine: "I was at the classified briefing ... [and the four embassies claim] wasn't told to us in the classified briefing, nor was there a suggestion that multiple embassies were threatened," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on Face the Nation, per the Hill.
  • Schiff: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the House Intelligence Committee, which he chairs, might subpoena John Bolton as the Senate impeachment trial begins—but he noted there's "little sense" in Bolton testifying for one body and not the other. "If they're going to be the triers, and in fact they will be, they should hear from the witness directly," Schiff said on Face the Nation, per the Hill. "He has offered to come forward and testify."
  • Pelosi: The speaker of the House said senators had better not stop new witnesses from testifying at the Senate trial, per the AP. "They take an oath to have a fair trial and we think that should be with witnesses and documents," she said on ABC's This Week. "Do that or pay a price."
(Meanwhile, protests have erupted in Iran.)

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