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Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee says he is "convinced" there is cause for concern around Iran's activists following a pair of briefings on the Gulf nation.

“I am convinced that the information and warnings that we have collected are of greater concern than the normal Iranian harassment activity that we’ve seen in the Persian Gulf and the surrounding area,” Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (R-Texas) told reporters Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s business as usual. It is cause for greater concern. ... and a great part of that concern relates to Americans being targeted.”

Several prominent senators on Thursday called for more information from the Trump administration after it pulled nonemergency U.S. personnel from Iraq as part of escalating tensions with Tehran.

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Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPress: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote Trump lawyer irked after senators laugh at him MORE (D-Vt.) – the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations – requested in a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoChina labels human rights criticism 'groundless' Trump to attend private RNC donor retreat On China, is Biden channeling Trump or Trump's administration? They're not the same MORE that he brief senators on the decision, saying they had "great concern" about the move.

Lawmakers are specifically asking for the administration to explain the intelligence it received about Iran that warranted the quick deployment of a bomber task force and carrier strike group to the region earlier this month. Bolton said at the time that the move was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.

The Graham and Leahy letter also comes as Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called for acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee Biden Pentagon pick could make up to .7M from leaving Raytheon Lloyd Austin can lead — as a civilian MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford to testify publicly before the Senate Armed Services Committee about intelligence concerning Iran.

“At this moment, the only thing that is abundantly clear about the administration's Iran policy is its lack of clarity and the lack of consultation with Congress and with the American people,” Schumer said.

Top congressional leaders later in the day received such a classified briefing but would not say whether they were satisfied with the information or whether alleged threats from Iran are credible.

Pompeo, Shanahan, Dunford and CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community MORE gave a briefing to the so-called Gang of Eight: House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House House Republican attempts to appeal fine for bypassing metal detector outside chamber MORE (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocratic fury with GOP explodes in House Trump to attack Biden in CPAC speech McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design' MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.), Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden administration open to restarting nuclear talks with Iran Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward House Democrats renew push for checks on presidential pardons MORE (D-Calf.), House Intelligence ranking member Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesNunes lawsuit against CNN thrown out Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variants spread in US; Redditors shake Wall Street with Gamestop stock GOP group launches billboard campaign urging Cruz, Hawley to resign MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE (R-N.C.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBiden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Biden CIA pick pledges to confront China if confirmed, speak 'truth to power' Microsoft, FireEye push for breach reporting rules after SolarWinds hack MORE (D-Va.).

But Thornberry said the briefings he attended – one by U.S. Central Command officials and the other from Joint Chiefs of Staff officials, meetings open to all members of the committee – have left him confident the administration is making the right moves.

“There had to be a strong signal sent to Iran that we would defend ourselves if we are attacked,” he said. “I hope everybody can rally around that. Showing that we are willing to stand up and defend Americans was an important thing to do.”

He added that the number of planes and ships that the U.S. sends to the region is a decision “best left to the military. But the hope for me and pretty much everyone is that Iran decides it’s not worth attacking us ... and that can be a deterrent.”

Asked whether he was concerned that recent comments by President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE and national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump offered North Korea's Kim a ride home on Air Force One: report Key impeachment figure Pence sticks to sidelines Bolton lawyer: Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE may escalate tensions with Iran unnecessarily, Thornberry said his sense is that “Iran is not hanging on every word that’s tweeted or said by Bolton or anybody else.”

“What they do watch is what we do. So I do think showing that we are willing to stand up and defend Americans was an important thing to do and hopefully deter any sort of attacks from happening.”

He added: “If we’re attacked, I expect our military forces will be in a position to respond. I hope that’s not what happens. ... It shouldn’t happen. I hope that the tensions start to diminish.”