Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is interviewed by FOX News' Bret Baier about the justification to take out Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: I’m going to talk about the imminence in a second, but there’s some reporting that the actual decision to kill Soleimani goes back about seven months. Is that true?
SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: Bret, I don't want to talk about the internal deliberations, but it's been the case that Soleimani has been someone who’s been on the American radar screen for an awfully long time. We’ve known of the risk that he presented to the world, and we had to reach the right moment where it was the case that we viewed the attended risk associated with that with the inevitable good that came from having him off the battlefield.
BAIER: So, multiple outlets are now reporting that State Department security officials were not notified of imminent threats at these U.S. embassies. The President said there were four, and there's been this evolution kind of – of the definition of imminence. What is the ground truth here?
POMPEO: Well, Bret, with respect to these claims that officials in the embassies weren’t notified, that is both false and dangerous and intentionally undermining what it is this administration did to protect the amazing men and women who work at our embassies, not only our State Department officials, but people from all across the United States government that work at these important diplomatic outposts.
They were not only notified, but we took extensive actions to do everything we could to ensure that they were safe and secure, that they were prepared, that there were reinforcements in the case, that something went wrong.
President Trump would never have put our diplomats in the position where they were at substantial risk, and we would have never undertaken action like this without, not only, notifying them, but making sure they had the time and the resources that they need.
And we were responsive to the request that they made so that we could reduce any risk to more than just four, multiple embassies throughout the region that we viewed as being under risk, when we took an attack like the one that we did.
BAIER: I know you heard a lot of talk about this over the weekend. Take a listen to one Democratic senator and the Secretary of Defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): There was not specific information about an attack, and there was little justification for an imminent threat. Yet, the President characterized it as such. And now, his Intelligence Community is trying to justify what the President said. You can’t. The President uses his own language, uses his own set of facts.
MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The Secretary of Defense talking about specific intelligence about the four embassies. I guess the question is, did the administration use imminent because it pleased the lawyers or why?
POMPEO: I don't know who used it first, but it reflects what we saw. We can dance around the maypole on the word imminent.
I can assure you of this -- the intelligence picture that was painted, not only in those days, but in all of the history that builds up to this -- this doesn’t just come to your radar screen new and fresh -- what we could see was that there was an increasing threat from the activities of Qasem Soleimani.
We knew that he was traveling in the region, both to Beirut and then to Damascus, and onto Baghdad, with the intent purpose of delivering a strike, a blow against Americans in the region.
And we weren’t about to take that risk -- I think General Milley described it as culpably negligent had we not made this recommendation to the President.
We made America safer. There was active plotting underway by Qasem Soleimani himself, and all those around him, and we took the leader of that plot, that plan, off the battlefield.