House Staff ‘Furious’ After State Dept. Abruptly Cancels Security Briefing

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: The U.S. Department of State is seenon January 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tensions are high in the middle-east after a U.S. air strike in Iraq killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian milit... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: The U.S. Department of State is seenon January 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tensions are high in the middle-east after a U.S. air strike in Iraq killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military leader. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 15, 2020 1:18 p.m.

Questions surrounding the specific intelligence regarding the Trump administration’s claim that there was an “imminent” threat to four U.S. embassies aren’t any closer to being answered after the State Department reportedly canceled a classified congressional briefing scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Within the past week, Trump administration officials have provided either shifting or vague explanations of the “imminent” threat that President Trump has used as justification for his authorization of the strike that killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani earlier this month.

On Sunday, neither Defense Secretary Mark Esper nor National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien could confirm that Trump had specific intelligence that Soleimani threatened to target four U.S. embassies during their multiple cable news appearances. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has only continued to waffle on the “imminent” Iran threat talking point by expressing his uncertainty of who first described the threat as “imminent” as recently as Monday.

According to a Politico report Wednesday morning, a House aide said that the State Department canceled the briefing focused on embassy security Tuesday without warning and that Capitol Hill staffers who planned to inquire about the “imminent” threat are now “furious.”

“Staff are furious,” the House aide told Politico. “This briefing is required by law every month, and today’s was the most important we’ve had scheduled in a long time. The State Department has given us no explanation whatsoever.”

Politico reported that although the canceled briefing was initially scheduled to focus on the situation in the African country of Burundi, congressional staff requested that the briefing’s agenda also cover embassy security in light of the Trump-authorized Soleimani strike.

According to Politico, congressional staffers wanted clarification on the Trump administration’s shifting explanations of the “imminent threat” and wanted to request a global threat assessment for U.S. personnel.

The briefing’s cancellation comes on the heels of the House Democrats’ release of documents suggesting that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani placed former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch — who Pompeo recalled in May — under surveillance. It’s not clear how successful that effort really was.

TPM has reached out to the State Dept. for comment. We will update this post if we hear back.

Read Politico’s report here.

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