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Trump Officials Lack United Response For Attack On Iranian General

Members of the Trump administration struggle to explain the intelligence behind the United States' drone strike on Iran's top military leader while he was at Baghdad's airport in Iraq.

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Transcript:

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's get two views now on an unfolding story. And we'll begin in Washington, where the Trump administration seems to be struggling to explain the reasoning behind its drone strike that killed Iran's military leader. We've heard repeatedly from the administration that it was in response to an imminent threat. And last week, President Trump even went so far as to provide some details to Fox, saying the Iranian general was planning attacks against U.S. interests.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.

GREENE: OK. But now Trump's own defense secretary, Mark Esper, is giving a different account. This is him on CBS "Face The Nation."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

MARK ESPER: Well, the president didn't say there was a - he didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably - he believed...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying there wasn't one?

ESPER: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.

GREENE: OK. Let's talk about that with NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So Esper's saying there he, quote, "didn't see" evidence about these embassies that the president says were targets. What can we make of this?

LIASSON: Well, many members of Congress who went to those briefings from the administration also say they didn't hear any evidence. I think this has the potential to undermine the administration's credibility on this. Esper was being as honest as he could while covering for his boss. And the problem is that the president has said so many things over time that weren't true, it's harder to just take his word for it. But this is going to make it, I think, a little bit harder to pass that War Powers resolution in the Senate, where you need four Republicans to join the Democrats. We don't have four Republicans yet. But this is not helping the president's case on this.

GREENE: So that's the resolution. It passed the House, and it would limit the president's war powers. And it didn't look like it was going to pass the Senate. But it's pretty close.

LIASSON: Yeah, I don't - we still haven't heard the four Republicans coming forward who need to vote for this. But this is a resolution, not a law, and it doesn't need the president's signature.

GREENE: All right. Talking there to NPR's Mara Liasson. We appreciate it, Mara. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.