Bolton held unexpected meeting on Iran with top intel, military advisers at CIA: report

Bolton held unexpected meeting on Iran with top intel, military advisers at CIA: report
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White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonBolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office US retaliates with missile strikes in Iraq The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the APTA - A huge night for Joe Biden MORE last week participated in a meeting at CIA headquarters to discuss Iran with the Trump administration's top intelligence, diplomatic and military officials, NBC News reported Thursday.

The meeting was rare in that national security meetings are usually held in the White House Situation Room, and senior White House officials and Cabinet members don’t typically attend meetings at the CIA.

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Five current U.S. officials told NBC that the meeting, held at 7 a.m. on April 29, included CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelFormer CIA chief: Not 'right' for Haspel to applaud at State of the Union Schiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations MORE, acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanBoeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia MORE, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike COVID-19 intensifies the case for blacklisting Khalifa Haftar  House Republican urges Pompeo to take steps to limit misinformation from China on coronavirus MORE and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

The officials did not say what specific aspects of Iran were discussed, but said the topic was not about intelligence that later prompted the administration to deploy a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region later that week.

The National Security Council declined to comment on the meeting.

Five former CIA operations officers and military officials told NBC News that in the past such meetings have been held at the CIA to brief top officials on highly sensitive information on covert actions, with two former officials saying the headquarters is the only place to review specific intelligence-gathering on Iran.

A meeting of senior administration officials would also be held if there were conflicting views on what the intelligence shows, former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin told NBC.

The news outlet reported earlier Thursday that the administration’s decision to increase its military presence near Iran was partly due to intelligence that Tehran gave approval to some of its proxy forces to attack U.S. military assets and personnel in the region.

“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said in a statement on the carrier and bomber deployment.

Tensions with Iran have risen in recent months. The White House has slapped additional sanctions on Tehran and for the first time designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that his country would no longer comply with aspects of a landmark 2015 nuclear pact from which President Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2017.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it would impose additional sanctions on Tehran "very soon" in response to Rouhani's remarks.

Asked about Iran on Thursday, Trump said that he is willing to talk and “make a deal.”

“We just don't want them to have nuclear weapons, it's not too much to ask. And we would help put them back into great shape. They're in bad shape right now. I look forward to the day when we can actually help Iran. We're not looking to hurt Iran. I want them to be strong, and great, and have a great economy,” Trump told reporters.

“But they should call, and if they do, we're open to talk to them,” he added.