“What the President said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well. He said that he believed that they probably, that they could have been targeting the embassies in the region,”Esper said. And in an interview with CBS that aired Sunday, Esper said he “didn’t see” a specific threat against four embassies in the intelligence.
Similarly, O’Brien conceded in an interview on Sunday with ABC that it was unclear whether embassies or US military bases would be targeted, but insisted Trump’s claim about four embassies being threatened was “consistent with the intelligence.”
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN last week that the administration’s “public messaging has raised all kinds of questions about whether or not there was sufficient motivation to launch an attack to kill arguable the second most powerful and important man in Iran.”
Both O’Brien and Esper continually pointed on Sunday to the concerns about the US Embassy in Baghdad, indicating the most specific intelligence was in regard to a threat there. But neither official provided intelligence indicating an imminent attack on all four.
“We were very concerned about the situation. We had exquisite intelligence,” O’Brien told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
When O’Brien appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” he said the administration knew there were threats to American facilities.
“Look, it’s always difficult, even with the exquisite intelligence that we have, to know exactly what the targets are but it’s certainly consistent with the intelligence to assume that they would have hit embassies in at least four countries,” he said.
O’Brien continued: “But again, we knew that there were threats to American facilities. Now whether they were bases, embassies — you know, it’s always hard until the attack happens, but we had very strong intelligence they were looking to kill and maim Americans at US facilities in the region.”
“I didn’t hear anything about that. And several of my colleagues have said the same. So, that was news to me,” Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah told Tapper on Sunday.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, wrote in a tweet last week that “if there was evidence of imminent attacks on four embassies, the Administration would have said so at our Wednesday briefing.”
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Kristen Holmes and Alison Main contributed to this reort.