Seven months before a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Donald Trump authorized lethal action against him. The revelation continues to erode the Trump administration’s claims that Soleimani posed an “imminent threat” to the United States.
NBC News reported on Monday that Trump authored a presidential directive in June that allowed for a strike on the Iranian general.
A senior administration official told NBC that it was “some time ago” that aides put killing Soleimani in front of Trump as part of the options available in response to Iranian hostility. According to NBC, Trump was urged by John Bolton to make the strike in June after Iran shot down a U.S. drone.
Trump reportedly told aides he would only make the strike after an American life was lost, which happened after a U.S. contractor was killed in Iraq by forces backed by the Iranians.
In the aftermath of Soleimani’s killing, Trump has claimed that the unusual action was undertaken because the general was involved in plots that were an “imminent threat” to U.S. assets and personnel.
But neither he nor senior members of his administration have presented evidence to justify the claim. Instead, they have publicly struggled to answer direct questions on the nature of the purported threat.
Trump claimed in an interview with Fox New’s Laura Ingraham on Thursday that Soleimani was targeting “four embassies,” but on Sunday, Defense Secretary Mike Esper said he hadn’t seen hard evidence of any such threat.
Members of the House and Senate who received classified briefings from the administration have publicly expressed disappointment with the presentations and indicated that the “imminent threat” has yet to be justified.
“No case was made for imminence,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told reporters after the briefing on Wednesday. The sentiment was echoed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who said the information he was given at the briefing was “a far cry from what I consider to be an imminent threat.”
The skepticism about Trump’s decision making, as well as his decision not to inform congressional leaders ahead of the strike, led to a House vote in favor of restraining Trump’s war powers. The measure was supported by members of both parties.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.