Sunday Talk Shows

Esper: Gang of 8 ‘did not think’ further intelligence on Iranian threat should be shared with Congress

Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that the top congressional intelligence committee members did not think that information shared with them about a potential Iranian plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad should be shared with other members of Congress. 

Esper’s comments on CBS’s “Face the Nation” were in response to President Trump’s recent interview with Fox News in which he shared more information than was previously released about what he viewed as a potential Iranian threat that led to his order to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 

“Why couldn’t you share that specific threat with senators in a classified briefing?” host Margaret Brennan asked Esper, in regards to Trump’s interview .

“There was a reference in this exquisite intelligence to an attack on the United States embassy in Baghdad, that information was shared with the Gang of 8,” Esper responded, referring to the top members of Congress. “All that exceptional intelligence was shared with the Gang of 8, not the broader membership of Congress.” 

Esper said that he was not in the room briefing the top intelligence lawmakers, but said he spoke to one of the briefers afterward. 

“His assessment was most, if not all the members, thought the intelligence was persuasive and that the Gang of 8 did not think it should be released to the broader members of Congress,” Esper said. 

He did not, however, confirm that the intelligence suggested that Iran was plotting to attack four embassies, as Trump said in the Fox News interview. He said he shared the president’s view, but said that he didn’t see intelligence to support that. 

At least one member of the so-called Gang of 8 did not find the briefing persuasive, as Esper said he was told most felt. 

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said shortly after a briefing in the wake of the drone strike that killed Soleimani that he had not seen intelligence suggesting that killing the commander would prevent the planning of future attacks against the U.S. 

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), meanwhile, called the briefing “insulting and demeaning,” and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said it was “less than satisfying.” 

Both Republicans said they would be supporting a resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to rein in Trump’s military powers. The House approved a similar resolution on Friday.

Tags Adam Schiff Donald Trump Iran strike Mark Esper Mike Lee Rand Paul Sunday shows Tim Kaine

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video