Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” in an exclusive interview Thursday that Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani was planning “a series of imminent attacks” when he was killed by an American drone at Baghdad’s international airport last week.
“We don’t know precisely when — and we don’t know precisely where,” Pompeo said. “But it was real.”
The secretary of state was responding to criticism of a classified briefing to lawmakers Wednesday that was meant to explain the rationale behind the Soleimani strike. Democrats have said they do not believe the intelligence shown in the briefing proved that Soleimani represented a threat to U.S. interests, while Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called the briefing “lame” and “insane,” describing it as the worst he had sat through in his time on Capitol Hill.
“I thought we did a dynamite job,” said Pompeo, who took part in the briefing. “I mean that in the truest sense, but we did our level best to present them with all the facts that we could in that setting.”
When host Laura Ingraham asked whether the administration could trust Congress with classified information, Pompeo said: “Well, we shared an awful lot with them yesterday … I think there are a number of people who are using this as a political ax to grind. I think that’s most unfortunate.”
Pompeo also backed President Trump’s claim that Iranian money unfrozen by the Obama administration “ultimately ends up in the hands of people who wanted to do Americans harm.”
During an address to the nation on Wednesday, hours after Iran fired 16 missiles in response to Soleimani’s death, Trump claimed: “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.”
In September 2016, the Treasury Department acknowledged that $1.7 billion was transferred from the U.S. to Iran in foreign hard currency. An initial $400 million delivery was sent to Tehran Jan. 17, the same day Iran agreed to release four American prisoners. The remaining $1.3 billion was paid in subsequent weeks. The $1.7 billion was the settlement of a 37-year-old dispute between the U.S. and Iran over a $400 million payment made by the last Shah of Iran.
Pompeo also responded to the apparent downing of a Ukrainian International Airlines plane by Iran early Wednesday that killed all 176 people on board. U.S., Canadian and British officials said Thursday it is “highly likely” that the jet was struck by an Iranian missile.
“If, in fact, it’s the case that there was something more insidious to this,” Pompeo said, “The American people should know that this would have been Iranian malfeasance that caused it.”