Secretary of Defense Mark Esper admitted Sunday on the CBS show "Face the Nation" that he saw no specific evidence of the “imminent” threat President Donald Trump has used to defend an airstrike he ordered, killing Gen. Qassem Soleimani and sparking widescale fear of retaliation that might endanger U.S. troops and diplomats. "The president didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said was he believed," Esper said on the show. "I didn't see one, with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is that I shared the president's view that probably—my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassy is the most prominent display of American presence in a country."
Esper's statement follows a Trump interview with Fox News Friday in which he said Iran planned attacks on four U.S. embassies. “We will tell you that probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” Trump said during the interview on “The Ingraham Angle.” The president, no advocate for the truth, also said: “I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.”
In an attempt to back up the president’s lie, Esper continued to muddy the waters on CBS. "What the president said was he believed that it probably and could've been attacks against additional embassies," he said. "I shared that view. I know other members of the national security team shared that view. That's why I deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites throughout the region."
”’Probably’ and ‘could have been,’ that sounds more like an assessment than a specific tangible threat with a decisive piece of intelligence,” journalist Margaret Brennan said during the interview. Esper responded: “Well, the president didn't say there was a tangible. He didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably, he believed, could have been.” Brennan then, pressed again to finally get Esper to admit that the president embellished.