Vice President Mike Pence responded Thursday to lawmakers, including Republicans, who criticized the lack of information shared by the Trump administration during classified congressional briefings on the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying the intelligence was too sensitive to share.
On NBC's "TODAY," Pence told Savannah Guthrie that the administration could not provide Congress with some of the "most compelling" intelligence behind the administration's decision to kill Soleimani because doing so "could compromise" sources and methods.
"Some of that has to do with what's called sources and methods," Pence said. "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 — it could compromise those sources and methods."
Pence said "those of us" who were made aware of the intelligence "in real time know that President Trump made the right decision to take Qassem Soleimani off the battlefield." He added that Soleimani "was planning imminent attacks against American forces."
In killing Soleimani, leader of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Trump administration said it launched the attack because of intelligence that showed Soleimani was planning "imminent" attacks on U.S. personnel. But the administration has yet to make public the evidence behind that assertion and, according to Democratic and two Republican senators, it did not detail that intelligence in a classified setting on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called the administration's briefing of Congress "probably the worst briefing I've seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate."
"I find this insulting and demeaning," Lee added, saying he plans to vote in favor of a war powers resolution from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. "That briefing changed my mind."
Soleimani's death came days after protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad. The Defense Department said Soleimani approved attacks on the embassy compound in Baghdad and orchestrated attacks on U.S.-led coalition bases in Iraq.
"Soleimani directed the recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq that badly wounded four service members and killed one American, and he orchestrated the violent assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad," Trump said Wednesday in a speech. "In recent days, he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him. Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood. He should have been terminated long ago."
Asked if an "imminent threat" is gone, Pence said Thursday that "the threat of Soleimani's leadership is gone."
"We are ready for any eventuality, including the ongoing threat from Iranian-backed militias" in Iraq, Pence said, adding that Trump does not seek regime change in Iran but a "change" in the behavior of its government.