Esper: Gang of 8 ‘did not think’ further intelligence on Iranian threat should be shared with Congress
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.”
NEWS: @EsperDOD tells @margbrennan that the Pentagon briefed the Gang of Eight – Congressional leadership – on intel that multiple embassies were targeted by Iranian-backed forces, but that the group “did not think that it should be released to the broader members of Congress.” pic.twitter.com/ht55bP7TX9
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 12, 2020
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.
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