Washington (CNN)As the Trump administration prepares to brief lawmakers Tuesday on the threat posed by Iran, Democrats are charging that Republicans are misrepresenting intelligence to make the danger from Tehran seem more dire than it actually is.
Democrats say some GOP members 'twist' Iran intel as Trump raises doubts about threat
Even President Donald Trump is splitting from his most senior officials' message about an imminent threat from Iran, a drumbeat that has deepened concern that the administration is heightening tensions with Tehran and the chances of a clash.
"We have no indication that anything's happened or will happen, but if it does, it will be met obviously with great force," Trump said at the White House Monday evening. "I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything. If they do something it will be met with great force, but we have no indication that they will."
Trump's assessment differed sharply from the message conveyed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, both "hawks" intent on changing the regime's behavior, if not its leadership. Pompeo warned of escalating and "imminent" attacks by Iran in early May, Bolton said the US would respond with "unrelenting force."
Trump has made clear he's interested in talking to Iran and has said he hopes there won't be a conflict, but lawmakers have expressed concern that they haven't been briefed on the nature of the threat and some -- invoking the faulty intelligence that led to the US invasion of Iraq -- are questioning the way the Iranian threat is being characterized.
That battle is set to play out on Tuesday as Pompeo, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford arrive on Capitol Hill to brief House members at 1:30 p.m., ET, and conduct an all-senators briefing at 2:45 p.m., ET, according to a Democratic aide.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, took aim at his Republican colleagues Monday after some received an early briefing from the administration.
"I'm listening to Republicans twist the Iran intel to make it sound like Iran is taking unprovoked, offensive measures against the US and our allies," Murphy tweeted Monday.