Mark Esper said Tuesday that slain Iranian military leader Qassem Solemani was 'caught red-handed' planning an attack that could be carried out within 'days' against America before the president ordered the attack that took him out.
'I think it's more fair to say days, for sure,' the Pentagon chief said while speaking to reporters at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, claiming Solemani was looking to target America soon before his death.
Donald Trump directed a drone attack that killed Solemani on Friday at an Iraqi airport, a move that has been criticized for being hastily executed.
'I can assure you that it's more than razor thin and it's persuasive,' Esper told CNN's British-Iranian reporter Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday afternoon when she asked what evidence there was that proved Solemani was planning an 'imminent' attack.
'The fact of the matter is Solemani was caught red-handed on the ground in Baghdad – one terrorist leader of a terrorist organization meeting with another terrorist leader – to synchronize and plan additional attacks on American forces, diplomats or facilities,' Esper continued. 'I think we took the right action to remove these players for the battlefield
Defense Department Secretary Mark Esper said it was 'more fair to say days' when asked what the White House meant when it said there was an 'imminent' threat of attacks from Iran
Esper also said in an interview earlier on Tuesday that Iranian General Qassem Solemani was 'caught red-handed' planning an attack against America
Esper also said the intelligence that led to the president ordering a drone strike that killed Soleimani (pictured) was 'more than razor thin and persuasive'
Democratic lawmakers and politicians have questioned whether there was enough intelligence to warrant taking out a top Iranian general amid swelling tensions between D.C. and Tehran.
While top officials like Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have assured an attack from Iran was imminent, other administration offices have claimed the strike was a deterrence.
Some have gotten caught up in the semantics of what the White House means when it says an 'imminent' attack – days, weeks, months or even more than a year.
'I think the threat was being orchestrated by Solemani, that's what the intelligence reported,' Esper told CNN. 'That's what he was found on the ground in both Baghdad and Damascus and elsewhere. And i think it was only a matter of days, certainly no more than weeks.'
The White House signaled that it is looking into making the information available that could proved Iran was planning to attack Americans.
Trump's National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien told reporters gathered at the White House Tuesday morning that he was 'taking a look at ' whether intelligence that led to the president's directive could be declassified.
'[Soleimani was] planning to kill, to attack American facilities and diplomats. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who were located at those facilities,' O'Brien said during a press gaggle.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed up the claim of that there was enough intelligence to prove Iran was planning an 'imminent' attack after several Democrats raised questions over the information that led Trump to direct the deadly drone attack
White House National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien told reporters at the White House Tuesday that he was 'taking a look at' declassifying intelligence information that an Iranian attack on Americans was 'imminent'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a press conference Tuesday he wasn't told ahead of time that the attack that took out Osama bin Laden when Barack Obama was president. 'My reaction to it was Congratulations. You did the right thing,' McConnell said, asking 'where is the applause' from Democrats for Trump taking out Soleimani
The attack was ordered after a New Years Eve