Schiff accuses Trump of "fudging" intelligence to justify Soleimani strike

Schiff accuses Trump of "fudging" Iran intelligence

Washington — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, accused President Trump and top administration officials of "fudging" intelligence to justify the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran's powerful Quds Force.

"When you hear the president out there on Fox, he is fudging the intelligence," Schiff said Sunday on "Face the Nation," referencing an interview the president conducted with Fox News last week. "When you hear the [defense] 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 leaving him in would make us less safe, that is also fudging. That is not an intelligence conclusion, that's Pompeo's personal opinion."

Mr. Trump and top administration officials have said the president ordered the targeted strike against Soleimani earlier this month in response to "imminent" threats to U.S. personnel in the region. The president then told Fox News in an interview Friday that Soleimani was targeting four U.S. embassies.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, however, told "Face the Nation" that he "didn't see" specific evidence that the embassies would be targeted, but rather insisted there was the belief that they could be.

Esper also said the intelligence was "exquisite" and detailed, a characterization Schiff, a member of the so-called "Gang of Eight," refuted.

"I don't quibble with it. I think it's just plain wrong," Schiff said. "There was no discussion in the Gang of Eight briefings that these were the four embassies that are being targeted and we have exquisite intelligence that shows these are the specific targets."

The Gang of Eight includes the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The group received a separate briefing on the strike from the Trump administration last week, before the full House and Senate learned of the details of the attack.

Schiff said he didn't recall in the briefing a discussion about a possible attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and instead said the information presented was more in line with remarks from Pompeo, who said last week the Trump administration didn't know "precisely" when and where an attack would occur.

"What they are doing is they are overstating and exaggerating what the intelligence shows," Schiff said. "When you're talking about justifying acts that might bring us into warfare with Iran, that's a dangerous thing to do."

Schiff also discussed impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump, as the House prepares for a vote this week to send the two articles it passed in December to the Senate and appoint impeachment managers, lawmakers who will effectively serve as prosecutors in the Senate trial.

The Intelligence Committee was one of the panel's that led the investigation into Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine, which were at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Senate Democrats are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow witnesses to testify during Senate proceedings, and former national security adviser John Bolton said last week he would testify if subpoenaed by the upper chamber.

Schiff said the Intelligence Committee is "considering" issuing a subpoena to Bolton for testimony.

"There's little sense in bringing Bolton into the House and not allowing the senators to see his testimony," he said. "If they're going to be the triers of fact, they should hear from the witness directly."