One of the hard and fast rules of this regime is when Trump outright lies to the American people, that reality is whatever Dear Leader says it is, and when you fail in that aspect of covering for him on national TV, it's going to go badly for you, as Defense Secretary Mark Esper is about to find out.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he "didn't see" specific evidence that top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks on four U.S. embassies, but said he believed such attacks would have occurred.
"The president didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said was he believed," Esper said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "I didn't see one, with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is that I shared the president's view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country."
The president and his top officials have said the strike that killed Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, was justified because there was an "imminent" threat to American service members and diplomats. Members of Congress, however, have raised questions as to the nature of the threat following briefings on the strike that the administration conducted with all members of the House and Senate.
Congressional Democrats have argued the intelligence they were presented did not demonstrate there was an "imminent" threat to U.S. personnel in the region, while some Republicans said the Trump administration was justified in killing Soleimani.
Mr. Trump told Fox News in an interview Friday that "it would've been four embassies" that were attacked, seemingly revealing more information about the nature of the threat.
Esper said he agreed that the embassies probably would've been targeted by Soleimani.
"What the president said was he believed that it probably and could've been attacks against additional embassies," he said. "I shared that view. I know other members of the national security team shared that view. That's why I deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites throughout the region."
Intelligence and analysis doesn't matter. What Trump publicly says he believes matters, and in America in 2020, only that matters. Trump killed Suliemani because he believed it would help him politically, period. At some point, somebody on his national security team mentioned embassies and that became the justification after the fact.
House Democratic Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff makes that clear in response to Esper.
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."
After three full years of lying to the American people on a daily basis, people don't believe Trump and it's hurting him.
The poll, conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News, using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, asked Americans about their attitudes on two unfolding challenges for the Trump presidency -- escalating tensions with Iran and the impending impeachment trial in the Senate.
Overall attitudes about Trump and the consequences of his actions against Iran largely were driven by Independents, a critical target for both parties in electoral politics. The poll showed a majority of Independents, 57%, and all U.S. adults, 56%, disapproving of Trump's handling of the situation with Iran, with 43% of both Independents and U.S. adults approving.
Respondents also were asked about the fallout of the strike against Qassem Soleimani, the second-most-important official in Iran's government behind Ayatollah Khamenei, which marked a major escalation in months of tension between the U.S. and Iran, which launched retaliatory missile strikes on American bases in Iraq.
In the aftermath of the U.S. strike, only 28% of Independents, and 25% of Americans, said they felt more safe, while just over half, 51% of Independents and 52% of U.S. adults, said they felt less safe.
When it comes to attitudes on the conflict with Iran, partisanship drives opinions. An overwhelming 87% of Republicans approved of Trump's handling of Iran, and 54% say they feel safer. Among Democrats, 90% disapproved and 82% felt less safe.
Still, when asked about concerns over the possibility of the United States getting involved in a full-scale war with Iran, Democrats are more united in expressing concern than Republicans.
A net total of 94% of Democrats, and 52% of Republicans, are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the possibility of entering into another war in the Middle East, compared with 6% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans who said they were not so concerned or not concerned at all.
Iran is not going to save Trump's presidency.