Iran attacks bases housing US troops

By James Griffiths, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 8:20 a.m. ET, January 8, 2020
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3:32 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Trump says US is prepared for an attack

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Trump wouldn’t say Tuesday whether there were any signs of an imminent retaliation by Iran on the US following the US targeting of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Asked in the Oval Office whether there were any signs of imminent retaliation by Iran, Trump pivoted, saying, “Well don’t forget, in our case, it was retaliation, because they were there first. … just in the very short period of time, two people dead, people badly injured, and then before that there were other attacks. And look at what he was planning.”

Trump added that what Soleimani was planning to do to the US, which remains classified, will be discussed Wednesday morning with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the joint chiefs of staff.

Trump asserted that the US is prepared for an attack by Iran.

“We’re prepared. We’re totally prepared,” Trump said. “And likewise we’ll attack if we have to as retribution.”

Watch the moment:

3:15 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Trump denies knowledge of letter on US troop presence in Iraq

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Trump says he doesn’t know anything about a letter circulated Monday suggesting inaccurately that the US would withdraw troops from Iraq. 

Speaking in the Oval Office moments ago, Trump said he had no knowledge of the document. His secretary of state, who was also in the Oval Office, called the letter a “mistake.”

Trump said he would like to withdraw US troops from Iraq at some point. But he said the timing wasn’t right to leave now.

He said he’d only consider sanctions on the country if the US isn’t treated with respect.

Watch:

2:47 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Esper says intelligence will only be shared with 8 congressional leaders

From CNN's Ryan Browne

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said today that the “exquisite intelligence” on the threat posed by Iranian general Qasem Soleimani will only be shared with a group of congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight.

He went on to say that “most members (of Congress) will not have access to that" information. 

Here's what Esper said about his decision and upcoming meeting with lawmakers:

“Much of my messaging to Congress will be the same as what I’m delivering to y’all here in terms of my views on the policy, the broader regional situation, the history, obviously with members of Congress we can go into a classified," he said at a news conference this afternoon. "We will be in a classified setting and be able to share more but the exquisite intelligence that we’re talking about that led to the decision. I should say one of the factors that led to the decision to strike at Soleimani is only shared with a handful of members the so called Gang of Eight and so they are getting that briefing this afternoon, and they will have access to that but most members will not have access to that."
2:40 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Trump claims Soleimani was planning a "big attack" but doesn't provide details

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Trump claims Iran's top commander was planning a "big attack" before the US killed him.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump didn't provide additional details of intelligence that officials have said justified the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani.

Trump said he didn't think anyone could complain about the strike. 

3:04 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Trump on targeting cultural sites: "I like to obey the law" but "they're allowed to kill our people"

Asked about his threat to target cultural sites in Iran, President Trump told reporters he likes to follow laws — but that there will be repercussions for Iran if they attack the US.

"They're allowed to kill our people," Trump said in the Oval Office, adding: "I like to obey the law."

Remember: An attack on a cultural site would violate several international treaties and would likely be considered a war crime.

Trump today said the US has to be "gentle" if Iran kills Americans. But he added if there were further attacks, Iran would "suffer consequences."

Watch the moment:

2:32 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Trump defends Soleimani strike and says lives were saved

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Trump defended the US strike that killed Iran's top military commander, telling reporters that lives were saved.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump called Qasem Soleimani a "terrorist" and said he was in Baghdad — where the strike occurred — on "bad business."

The President said the US had been following Soleimani's path for days.

Trump is speaking alongside his Greek counterpart. The meeting is ongoing.

2:53 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Defense secretary says the US is not leaving Iraq

From CNN's Jamie Crawford

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States “not leaving Iraq” amid confusion over an unsigned letter Monday from a US commander in Iraq that seemed to indicate they would withdraw troops from Iraq

Esper, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon today, said a “draft unsigned letter does not constitute a policy change and there is no signed letter to the best of my knowledge."

He continued: "I have asked the question, so there may be people trying to create confusion but we should focus on this much what I have said a few times now — our policy has not changed. We are in Iraq and we are there to support Iraqi forces and Iraqi government become a strong, independent and prosperous country.”

Watch the moment:

2:19 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

Trump tweets on meeting with Saudi minister

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Trump tweeted about his meeting yesterday with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

“Had a very good meeting with @kbsalsaud of Saudi Arabia. We discussed Trade, Military, Oil Prices, Security, and Stability in the Middle East!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

More context: The tweet comes moments after the White House Correspondents' Association released a statement criticizing the White House for a lack of transparency over the meeting. The meeting was not in the public schedule sent to press each day, nor had there previously been any statements released by the White House about the meeting.

2:19 p.m. ET, January 7, 2020

White House Correspondents' Association responds to reports of undisclosed meeting between Trump and Saudi defense minister

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The White House Correspondents' Association has responded to reports of meeting between the President and Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister Khalid bin Salman, which hadn't been formally disclosed by the White House.

Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, said that a meeting with a foreign leader in the Oval Office "should, at the very least, be on the public schedule with a read-out of the meeting released after it is over."

Here's Karl's complete statement: 

"President Trump met with Saudi Arabia's Vice Minister of Defense at the White House yesterday, but the public did not learn about the meeting until the Saudi government released a statement about it today. The Saudi government also released photographs of the President and his senior advisers meeting with the Vice Minister of Defense in the Oval Office.  A meeting with a foreign leader in the Oval Office should, at the very least, be on the public schedule with a read-out of the meeting released after it is over. This has been the long-standing precedent for presidents of both political parties. It is disturbing to see the government of Saudi Arabia have more transparency than the White House about a meeting with the President in the Oval Office."

 What's this about: Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister tweeted photographs from a meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump.

"Upon directives from HRH the Crown Prince, I had the pleasure of meeting with @RealDonaldTrump yesterday to deliver a message from the Crown Prince, and review aspects of our bilateral cooperation, including efforts to confront regional and international challenges," Prince Khalid wrote.

The meeting was not on the President's schedule and has not been disclosed by the White House. Khalid bin Salman also met Monday Defense Secretary Esper and Secretary of State Pompeo.