Pentagon chief says he 'didn't see' intelligence suggesting Iran planned to attack four US embassies

Secretary of Defense Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon orders active-duty police units on ready to deploy to Minneapolis: AP Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries No time to be selling arms to the Philippines MORE said on Sunday that he did not see intelligence that supported President Trump’s comments that the Iranian commander killed in a U.S. drone strike was plotting attacks against four U.S. embassies. 

Esper said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he shared Trump’s view that planning was underway but did not cite intelligence information he saw to support the claims. 

“What the president said was he believed there probably and could've been attacks against additional embassies. I shared that view. I know other members of the national security team shared that view. That’s why I deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites throughout the region,” Esper said.

He added that Trump did not cite a “specific piece of evidence.”

“Are you saying there wasn't one?” host Margaret Brennan asked. 

“I didn't see one with regard to four embassies,” Esper responded. “What I’m saying is I share the president's view.” 

He added that administration officials "do not expect any further attacks."

Trump told Fox News in an interview that aired Friday that Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was plotting against four U.S. embassies before he was targeted.

ADVERTISEMENT

Members of Congress have questioned whether an attack was imminent, as administration officials have said was the case in defending their decision to carry out the strike in briefings before lawmakers. 

During an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Esper similarly defended Trump’s comments and said he shared the president's view that Iran was planning attacks against multiple embassies. 

He did not, however, go so far as to confirm intelligence supported the claim. 

“I’m not going to discuss intelligence matters on the show,” Esper said.

“The president did,” host Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperNational security adviser blames 'a few bad apples,' says there's not systemic racism in law enforcement CNN's Jake Tapper slams 'Trump's unprecedented war on accountability' Ron Johnson says he's not 'crying big crocodile tears' over firing of State Department IG MORE responded. 

Esper replied that it was the “president’s prerogative” to do so. 

When asked if the president was “embellishing,” Esper said he doesn't believe so.

“At the end of the day, Soleimani was planning an attack against multiple sites,” he said, including “at least” the embassy in Baghdad.

Esper added that “taking [Soleimani] off the battlefield ... was the right thing to do.”

This report was updated at 10:46 a.m.