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State Department cancels two classified congressional briefings on Iran, embassy security

The State Department’s cancellation of two classified congressional briefings to address embassy security and Iran policy sparked lawmakers’ ire in Wednesday, according to Politico.

“This briefing is required by law every month, and today’s was the most important we’ve had scheduled in a long time,” a House aide told the publication. “The State Department has given us no explanation whatsoever.”

Several senior Foggy Bottom officials — including Brian Hook, special envoy for Iran, and David Schenker, assistant secretary of State for the Middle East — were scheduled to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prior to the cancellation, Politico reported, citing a Senate aide.

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Initially the embassy security briefing was to address conditions in the East African nation of Burundi, but the topic was broadened to general facility security amid U.S./Iran tensions following the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike.

The White House initially claimed the strike was in response to an unspecified imminent threat posed by Soleimani, but President Trump later told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that Soleimani was plotting attacks on four U.S. embassies, which contradicted a briefing that administration officials gave lawmakers in the aftermath of the strike. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday conceded that he had not seen intelligence showing an imminent embassy attack.

Staffers had hoped to ask for clarification on the changing explanations in the meeting, according to Politico, as well as receive a global threat assessment for U.S diplomats.

The briefing was also to be the first since House Democrats released communications in which Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, appears to suggest that then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance.

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.

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