Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pressed White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Sunday over President Donald Trump’s claims on Fox News last week that a senior Iranian official killed by U.S. airstrikes was planning imminent attacks on four U.S.embassies, asking why Congress wasn’t told of these threats.
During a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham last Friday, the president asserted that it was necessary to kill former Quds Force commander Qassem Soliemani as he believed there would have been four embassies that would have been attacked. This expanded on his previous claims that Soleimani was “actively planning” an attack on the embassy in Baghdad, something he later revised to “multiple embassies.”
Interviewing O’Brien on Fox News Sunday, Wallace noted that members of Congress pointed out that there wasn’t a single mention of imminent threats to U.S. embassies during recent intelligence briefings with the Trump administration on Iran.
“So why is [the president] saying it on television but the top officials didn’t tell members of Congress?” Wallace wondered aloud.
O’Brien, meanwhile, asserted that while he’s “seen the intelligence on this” and that it was “very strong,” he can’t release it to the American public but that they should still “trust the administration on this.” He further noted that the administration has always said that there were “severe threats to American diplomats” in the region.
“So I think what the president said is consistent with what we’ve been saying since day one,” O’Brien added.
“It does seem to be a contradiction,” Wallace countered. “He is telling Laura Ingraham, our esteemed colleague, but in a 75-minute classified briefing your top national security people never mention this to members of Congress. Why not?”
“I wasn’t at the briefing and I don’t know how the Q&A went back and forth, depends on the questions were asked or how they were phrased, I don’t know, I wasn’t there,” the national security adviser replied. “All I can tell you is we’ve been clear from the start that there were very significant threats to American facilities in the region and American military officials, officers and men and women and also to U.S. diplomats and I think that is consistent with what the president is saying.”
Wallace pushed back some more, asking O’Brien if he would agree with Trump that there were specific imminent threats to four American embassies, prompting more equivocation from the senior White House official.
“It is always difficult to know exactly what the targets are but it certainly is consistent with the intelligence to assume they would have hit embassies in at least four countries,” O’Brien responded.
O’Brien’s remarks largely overlap with those of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who on Sunday said that while he shares the president’s “belief” that four embassies faced imminent threats from Soleimani, he “didn’t see” any specific evidence to support those claims.