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Pompeo reasserts that Soleimani posed imminent threat, but won't define 'imminent'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that the strike on Qasem Soleimani was in reaction to an "imminent" threat; but pressed by CNN's Kaitlan Collins to define "imminent," Pompeo didn't offer a specific timeframe.

Posted: Jan 10, 2020 2:20 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2020 2:20 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday reasserted that the strike on Qasem Soleimani was as a result of an imminent threat. But pressed by reporters to define "imminent," Pompeo didn't offer a time frame.

"This was gonna happen and American lives were at risk and we would've been culpably negligent ... had we not recommended (to) the President that he take this action," Pompeo said. "He made the right call and America is safer as a result of that."

Asked in the White House briefing room to specify whether there was an imminent threat that had to do with American embassies, Pompeo said: "We had specific information on an imminent threat and those included attack on US embassies. Period, full stop."

Asked if he was mistaken when he said he didn't have a precise time for those potential attacks, Pompeo responded: "Nope. Completely true."

"Those are completely consistent thoughts. I don't know exactly which minute. We don't know exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear. Qasem Soleimani himself was plotting a large-scale attack on American interests and those attacks were imminent."

President Donald Trump claimed in an interview Friday that slain Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was targeting four embassies before he was killed.

"I can reveal that I believe it would've been four embassies," Trump said in an interview with Fox News.

On Wednesday, lawmakers took part in a classified briefing on the operation to take out Soleimani. Democrats and some Republicans left the room frustrated at a lack of evidence to support the administration's argument that the top Iranian general posed an imminent threat to the US.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee called it the "worst briefing I've had on a military issue in my nine years" in the Senate. And multiple lawmakers said they saw no specific intelligence that pointed to an imminent threat from Soleimani that justified the strike.

The following day, Trump disclosed that Soleimani planned to blow up US embassies but offered no evidence. In addition, a senior defense official told reporters that the US had intelligence about multiple plots and threats involving Soleimani, including one that involved a plan to attack the embassy using explosives. But the senior defense official would not provide any additional details on the plot against the embassy citing the sensitivity of the intelligence.

CNN has been unable to confirm the claims made by the President and the official.

During the White House press briefing, Pompeo was asked why he and the President have referenced threats to US embassies in the Middle East but some lawmakers have claimed they were not briefed on those threats behind closed doors during their classified briefing.

"We did (brief them on embassy threats). Yes. We told them about the imminent threat. All of the intelligence that we briefed -- that you've heard today I assure you in an unclassified setting, we provide in the classified setting, as well," Pompeo said.

Pressed again, he said, "I'm not going to talk about the details of what we shared in a classified setting, but make no mistake about it: those leaders, those members of Congress who want to go access this same intelligence can see that very same intelligence that will reflect what I'm describing and what the President said last night."

The House passed a War Powers resolution along nearly partisan lines Thursday in response to the Trump administration's Soleimani strike and it's justification for taking the action.

"Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she announced the House vote.

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