The information supporting the Trump administration’s rationale for assassinating Iran’s top commander is simply too sensitive to share with Congress, Vice President Mike Pence flatly insisted in an NBC interview Thursday.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani had to be killed last week because he was orchestrating an “imminent” attack on Americans, the Trump administration has claimed.
But Pence said the information backing up that claim can’t be shared. “Some of the most compelling evidence that Qassem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence that we have,” Pence said on the “Today” show. “It could compromise those sources and methods.”
Pence was responding to a scathing attack by Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee on the Trump administration’s briefing to lawmakers about the attack. Lee called the briefing so devoid of substance that it was “insulting and demeaning.” It was “probably the worst briefing, at least on a military issue, I’ve seen in my nine years” in the Senate, Lee said.
Classified information — including highly sensitive information — is often shared with members of Congress, noted Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). It could have been presented to fewer senators on the appropriate committees, or with more identifying source information eliminated, she said on CNN.
“They refused to do even that,” Duckworth noted. “They could not address” the issue of the imminence of an Iranian attack on a U.S. target, she said, adding, “They showed nothing to us that we couldn’t see in the media.”
Duckworth said the attitude was: “You’re just going to have to go along with what we say. That’s not how our system of checks and balances works.”
The Trump administration was supposed to demonstrate to Congress that such an attack was legal. Without such intelligence, Congress can only take President Donald Trump at his word. The Washington Post has documented that Trump has made false or misleading claims more than 15,000 times since the start of his term.
Pence insisted that those who were made aware of the intelligence “in real time” know that Trump “made the right decision.”
As for Trump, he appeared mystified by Lee’s criticism. “I get along great with Mike Lee. I’ve never seen him like that,” Trump told reporters at the White House Thursday.
Trump claimed “numerous senators and numerous congressmen and women” said the briefing for lawmakers on the attack was “the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.” That appears to contradict Pence, who revealed that the key intelligence he said supported the attack was not provided.
Watch Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s reaction to the briefing below.