Congress

Pompeo walks back comments that appeared to contradict Trump on embassy attacks

After Trump told rally about multiple embassies targeted, secretary of State says targets weren’t known

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at the Capitol on Wednesday to brief members of the House on the situation with Iran. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried Friday to clean up comments from the night before  that appeared to contradict President Trump’s claim that the Iranian general he had killed was targeting multiple U.S. embassies.

Pompeo told reporters U.S. officials acted on “specific information on an imminent threat,” and that the “threat stream included attacks on U.S. embassies. … Full stop.”

American officials did not know “exactly which minute,” but he claimed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was planning “broad, large-scale attacks” on American targets.

Trump made the claim Thursday night during a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio. White House officials have yet, however, to provide information to lawmakers or the public to support that claim.

But in an interview with Fox News aired Thursday night, Pompeo said, “There was no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks that were being plotted by Qassem Soleimani. And we don’t know precisely when and we don”t know precisely where, but it was real.”

When pressed for his definition of the word “imminent,” Pompeo said, “This was going to happen.”

He said Trump and other American officials would have been derelict had they not taken out the Quds Force commander.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced at the top of the same White House briefing that new sanctions on Iran that target several of the country’s top economic sectors, including mining, textiles, construction, as well as steel and iron manufacturing. Collectively, the new economic penalties are meant to “cut off billion in support” to Iran’s top leaders.    The sanctions are meant to, in part, punish senior Iranian officials who participated in Tuesday night’s missile strikes on U.S. military targets inside Iraq, the Treasury secretary said, as well as senior leaders who orchestrate Iran’s “destabilizing actions” in the region.   Pompeo also said Iran’s intent was to “kill people” with those Tuesday night strikes, even though other senior U.S. have said intelligence information suggests they aimed their missiles away from parts of the bases where U.S. and Iraqi personnel would have been at that time.

Pompeo also said that U.S. officials have determined a Ukrainian airliner that crashed near Tehran’s airport a few hours after that strike was downed by an Iranian missile, but he declined to say whether the Trump administration is planning a response. First, an investigation into the alleged shootdown must be completed, he said.   Once that investigation has produced conclusions, Pompeo said “we and the world will take appropriate response.”

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