The White House on Tuesday continued to argue that its decision to strike and kill an Iranian military official on Friday was spurred on by an imminent threat to American lives, while dodging questions about what that threat might have been.
During an interview Tuesday on Fox News, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that members of Congress would be briefed on the intelligence that led to the assassination of Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. She argued it was “unfortunate” that people were questioning what she called an intelligence-based decision. When Fox News’ Bill Hemmer asked Grisham to specify what threats Soleimani posed to American forces in Iraq, Grisham dodged.
“No, that was an intel-based decision and it saved American lives, I think that’s what’s most important,” she said. “I know a lot of people are now questioning the intel, that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people are saying, ‘to what benefit?’ And I would answer that question by saying, the benefit was we saved American lives. We saved members of the military, we saved diplomats and we saved a lot of families from having to welcome their loved ones home in coffins.”
Grisham also said she wouldn’t be surprised if the intelligence that’s shared with Congress Wednesday is “leaked,” but said it would remain private for national security purposes. When Hemmer pressed further, Grisham questioned what the alternative might have been — “to not save these people?”
“Then what would people be saying to us? What would Congress be saying? What would Nancy Pelosi be saying?” she asked. “That we sat by and let something that happened to our American troops or our American diplomats? Again, we saved lives here. That was the number one most important thing for this president.”
White House continues it's defense of Soleimani attack without citing evidence of imminent threat to Americans pic.twitter.com/7eDsr94rZV
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 7, 2020
During a press conference following the interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made similar remarks, declining to share any details on what he characterized as an “imminent attack” on Americans. The move is a slight shift from Pompeo’s defense over the weekend, that the Obama administration’s policies in the region “appeased Iran” and led to Soleimani’s increased influence in Iran and Iraq.
It’s also worth noting the hypocrisy of an intelligence-heavy defense of the attack in an administration that’s spent much of President Trump’s presidency deriding its confidence in Trump’s own intelligence community.