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Dem senator: 'Blowing smoke' to say Iranian general posed an imminent threat

Dem senator: 'Blowing smoke' to say Iranian general posed an imminent threat
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOn The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry MORE (D-Md.) on Friday dismissed the Trump administration’s characterization that Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani posed an “imminent threat” to U.S. interests, saying officials have presented no evidence to support that claim.

Soleimani is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and their allies in the Middle East before his death in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad last week, but lawmakers emerged from classified briefings on Iran on Thursday saying administration officials didn’t make the case that he was an imminent threat, a term Van Hollen characterized on CNN as “blowing smoke.”

“I want to be very clear: It’s not only the case that they did not present evidence to show there was an imminent threat,” he said. “The reality is that the facts they presented indicated in my mind and anybody who understands what imminent threat means, that there was not an imminent threat. That’s an important distinction: It’s not just that the facts didn’t rise to show that there was an imminent threat, the information they provided us indicated there was not an imminent threat.”

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the White House’s position in a Friday press conference.

“We had specific information on an imminent threat and the threat stream included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period, full stop,” Pompeo told reporters. 

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“We have seen this kind of game-playing before,” Van Hollen said. “It’s very dangerous to play these games when it comes to sending American men and women off to war.”

The Democratic senator said the administration's actions may have put American lives in danger and permanently damaged the country’s relations with Iraq, where leaders appear increasingly willing to ask U.S. troops to leave.

“Because of what they did, Americans are less safe today in the region, and there’s more instability,” he said. “And we just heard today that the Iraqi prime minister officially requested that we begin discussions to entirely remove our troops from there.”