Jake Tapper asks the Secretary of Defense why Trump told Fox News things about Iran that haven't been told to Congress

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Citation From the January 12, 2020, edition of CNN's State of the Union

JAKE TAPPER (ANCHOR): Many members of Congress from both parties have said that none of the briefings mentioned threats to four U.S. Embassies. Why is President Trump telling this to Fox News, but the administration is not briefing Congress on this threat to four embassies, unless there was actually no specific intelligence that there was a threat to four embassies?

MARK ESPER (SECRETARY OF DEFENSE): The president never said there was specific intelligence to four different embassies.

TAPPER: He said he believed it.

ESPER: And I believed it too. What --

TAPPER: Four embassies? You believe that?

ESPER: I believe there were threat to more than -- to multiple embassies. That's why we reinforced the embassies with additional troops.


TAPPER: Is President Trump embellishing?

ESPER: I don't believe so. Look, the bottom line is we had exquisite intelligence that can only be shared with the gang of eight. So I understand the frustration of many members of Congress, but was shared with that gang of eight. I spoke to one of the briefers. One of the briefers told me was at most, nearly all the members of that gang of eight believed the intelligence was persuasive as well and that it should not be shared with the broader membership, because the concerns that it could be released, reveal our sources and methods. At the end of the day --

TAPPER: President Trump said it on TV on Friday.

ESPER: -- Soleimani was planning an attack, a broader attack against multiple sites, to include embassy, at least the United States embassy in Baghdad, and that it was going to result in open hostilities. Taking him off the battlefield, a legitimate military target, was the right thing to do.

TAPPER: Well, first of all, what you're saying is not the same thing that President Trump said. President Trump said he believed there were four U.S. embassies targeted; you're talking about something else. One embassy, and maybe a broader threat to others. Second of all, you're saying that you couldn't tell something to Congress that President Trump was willing to say to Fox News, and that doesn't really make a lot of sense.

ESPER: We briefed Congress. The gang of eight, who are the legitimate representatives of the broader Congress in affairs like this when you have exquisite intelligence. They were briefed. I'm not going to go into details on what they were briefed, partly because I wasn't there.