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Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations

Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations
© Greg Nash

A Democratic senator said Tuesday that he is concerned that the U.S. intelligence community is "bending" the intelligence pointing to Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani having posed an "imminent threat" to the U.S. before he was killed in an airstrike earlier this month.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyProgressives fume over Senate setbacks Ex-Capitol Police chief did not get FBI report warning of violence on Jan. 6 Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (D-Ore.) criticized CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community MORE specifically while questioning the intelligence community in a Tuesday appearance on CNN's "New Day," telling the hosts that the Trump administration's handling of the airstrike that killed Soleimani earlier this month "reminds me of how intelligence was corrupted during the war against Saddam Hussein."

"I'm very concerned our intelligence community, in this case with Gina Haspel at the top, is bending their presentations rather than giving us a full straight-out accountability of the facts," Merkley told CNN's John Berman.

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"It reminds me of how intelligence was corrupted during the war against Saddam Hussein," he added.

 

Merkley added that he thought Haspel was attempting to support the president with her "assertion" that Soleimani posed an imminent threat to U.S. forces or assets, saying that the claim is not supported by available facts.

"What we heard [in Haspel's presentation to members of Congress] ... was basically Gina trying to stand with the team," Merkley said. "To make the case. But she didn't have any facts to make the case, so it became an assertion."

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His criticism is just the latest among congressional Democrats who have argued that Trump's decision to authorize a strike killing Soleimani was not approved by Congress and not supported by an imminent need to respond to a threat.

Some allies of the president have countered by accusing Democrats of attempting to defend the slain Iranian general and arguing that Soleimani's actions in the Middle East presented a regular threat to U.S. troops.

Updated at 12:57 p.m. to correct a line that stated incorrectly that Sen. Merkley sits on the intelligence committee.