On Monday, President Donald Trump stepped away from a justification his administration had been touting for the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, which occurred earlier this month.
While Trump still asserted in a tweet that there was an imminent threat posed by Soleimani, he also suggested that whether a threat existed or not wasn’t important, either.
“The Fake News Media and their Democrat [sic] Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was ‘imminent’ or not, & was my team in agreement,” Trump wrote in his tweet. “The answer to both is a strong YES., but it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!”
The Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was “imminent” or not, & was my team in agreement. The answer to both is a strong YES., but it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2020
On Tuesday, lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who sits on the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee, criticized those remarks, noting that Trump’s argument that a threat was imminent had fallen apart, and that this new justification wasn’t sufficient.
Trump’s tweet is “just further evidence that the whole imminent threat was an ‘after the fact’ argument,” Merkley said on an interview with CNN. “When you have no identifiable target, or actor, or time schedule, or place, you don’t have an imminent threat.”
Saying Soleimani was a threat was “an effort to place it into a stronger construction of international law,” the senator added.
"The whole argument of imminent threat was an after-the-fact argument," says @SenJeffMerkley about Trump's tweet claiming the proof of imminent threat did not matter in Soleimani's killing.
"It reminds me of how intelligence was corrupted during the war against Saddam Hussein." pic.twitter.com/UJxdTv8O76
— New Day (@NewDay) January 14, 2020
Trump and his cabinet officials were doing a terrible job of keeping their story straight. “The administration has stumbled all over itself. It reminds me of how intelligence was corrupted during the war against Saddam Hussein,” Merkley said, referencing the intelligence blunder of claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to hostilities with that nation in 2003.
Merkley made additional complaints about CIA Director Gina Haspel’s discussions with the Foreign Intelligence Committee, and alleged her words touted Trump’s lines of justification more than delivered an honest assessment of why the assassination was ordered.
“Basically, [Haspel was] trying to ‘stand with the team,’ to make the case” on behalf of Trump, Merkley said, “but she didn’t have any facts to make the case, so it became just an assertion. That’s not the role of the intelligence community.”
A War Powers Act resolution passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week that would curtail the president’s ability to attack Iran in the future, without Congressional consent or a legitimate imminent threat. The Senate is set to vote on its own resolution soon.
According to Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, as many as 10 Republican senators will likely join Democrats in supporting the measure, The Hill reported.
If the Senate version passes, the House would have to re-vote on the measure, as it’s a different bill than the one that passed previously in that chamber. It would then go to the president for his signature, where Trump is expected to use his veto pen to quell the congressional check on his powers.
Featured image credit: The White House/Wikimedia