Pence Hits Back At Bipartisan Criticism Of Admin Briefing On Iran

Vice President Mike Pence listens to President Donald Trump speak in the Cabinet Room at the White House on December 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
January 9, 2020 11:17 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday hit back at the bipartisan criticism that the administration’s congressional briefing on the strike that killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani received, during an interview on the “Today” show.

Upon leaving the Wednesday briefing, both Democrats and Republicans appeared exasperated, saying that the administration failed to make a convincing case for its talking point that the President green-lit the Soleimani strike to prevent an “imminent” attack against the U.S.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) made headlines with his remark that the briefing was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate” and that he found it “insulting.” Lee’s sentiment wasn’t a far cry from the grievances that Democrats shared, which included Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) calling the briefing “sophomoric and utterly unconvincing.”

When asked by “Today” anchor Savannah Guthrie to respond to the senators’ criticism of the briefing, Pence said that “some of that has to do with what’s called sources and methods.”

“If we were to share all of the intelligence — and, in fact, some of the most compelling evidence that Qasem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel — also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence we have,” Pence said. “It could compromise those sources and methods.”

Pence then said that despite Lee’s “difference of opinion with our administration over self defense measures” such as what “the President authorized in Yemen,” he still holds “tremendous respect” for the Utah Republican and that “we’ll welcome those debates going forward.”

After Pence insisted that “Trump made the right decision to take Qasem Soleimani off the battlefield,” Guthrie asked the vice president whether Trump — who called his country’s Iran intelligence “passive” and naive” and “perhaps should go back to school” in a tweet last year — still holds the same view on intelligence agencies.

Pence dodged the question, saying that Trump will always ask the “tough questions.” Pence then doubled down on his argument that the President “made the right decision” given how Soleimani was “planning imminent attacks.”

“We were gathering intelligence in real time that was brought to the President that Qasem Soleimani was planning imminent attacks in response to our air strikes on five Iranian-backed militia bases,” Pence said. “He was planning imminent attacks that were larger in the region against American forces and President Donald Trump put American lives and American protection first. He made the right decision and America and the world is safer today as a result.”

Watch Pence’s interview on “Today” below:

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