On Sunday’s broadcast of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) accused President Trump and top administration officials of “fudging” intelligence to justify the strike that killed former Quds force commander Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Partial transcript as follows:
BRENNAN: You are part of the Gang of Eight, so you’re part of that group that received the very classified briefing that the Defense Secretary was referring to. He said the intelligence was exquisite, and it was incredibly detailed. Do you quibble with his characterization of what you were told?
SCHIFF: I don’t quibble with it. I think it’s just plain wrong. There was no discussion in the Gang of Eight briefings that these are the four embassies that are being targeted and we have exquisite intelligence that shows these are the specific targets.
BRENNAN: What about U.S. embassy, Baghdad?
SCHIFF: It- it—
BRENNAN: He said that was specifically referenced.
SCHIFF: –Well, I don’t recall, frankly, in that briefing there being a specific discussion about bombing the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The brief was much more along the lines, frankly, of something that Secretary Pompeo admitted the other day when he said that we don’t know precisely where and we don’t know precisely when. That was much more the nature of the briefing that we got. In the view of the briefers, there was plotting. There was a- an effort to escalate being planned, but they didn’t have specificity. And so when you hear the president out there on FOX, he is fudging the intelligence and when you hear the Secretary say, well, that wasn’t what the intelligence said, but that’s my personal belief, he is fudging. When Secretary Pompeo was on your show last week and made the claim that the intelligence analysis was that taking Soleimani out would improve our security and not- and leaving them in would make us less safe, that is also fudging. That’s not an intelligence conclusion. That is Pompeo’s personal opinion. Intelligence–
BRENNAN: Is that a polite way of saying they’re lying?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, you could certainly put it that way. But frankly, I think what they are doing is they are overstating and exaggerating what the intelligence shows. And when you’re talking about justifying acts that might bring us into warfare with Iran, that’s a dangerous thing to do.
BRENNAN: But to be fair, because you are the Intel Committee chairman, you know, the Intel Committee often or- the Intelligence Committee works in assessments, in judgments, in putting together mosaic pieces of information to come to a conclusion. When Esper is working in beliefs and projections, isn’t that just how it works? Impossibilities and not necessarily always having one conclusive piece of the exact place and time?
SCHIFF: Well, that’s exactly right. But that- that means that you need to be very clear about what you’re saying the intelligence shows and what it doesn’t. If we were to ask the intelligence agencies, will taking Soleimani out make us safer or less safe? They would say to us, Congressman, that’s a policy judgment that the policy makers need to make. What we can tell you is if you take him out, here are the likely repercussions. Those repercussions that we were briefed about were far more dangerous to this country than anything that Soleimani was plotting, as far as I can tell. And so when you’re talking about taking out a top government official of another nation, an act that might bring us into outright warfare, the burden of imminence, of showing imminence with very great specifics, I think is very high.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN