WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, facing lingering questions about the timing of his order to kill one of Iran’s top military leaders in a U.S. drone strike, said Monday “it doesn’t really matter” if the threat posed by Qassem Soleimani was “imminent” because of his “horrible past.”
Trump in a morning tweet accused Democratic lawmakers and the news media of “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!”
The president’s tweet was posted shortly after NBC News published a report, citing five former and current administration officials, indicating that Trump had authorized Soleimani’s killing in June, months before the leader of Iran’s elite Quds force was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.
Top Administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the killing was justified because Soleimani, architect of past attacks on U.S. troops overseas, posed an “imminent” threat to Americans. However, administration officials have offered varying explanations about the nature and timing of future attacks.
Pompeo said last week, “We don’t know precisely when, and we don’t know precisely where,” Soleimani was planning an attack.
Days later, in an interview on Fox News, Trump said, “I believe it probably would've been four [U.S.] embassies,” under attack. Trump’s assertion was called into question on Sunday, when Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in an interview on CBS News “Face the Nation” said he “didn’t see” specific evidence regarding four embassies at risk of an attack.
Democratic lawmakers and Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah have said an intelligence briefing by Trump’s national security team to Congress last week was vague and did not provide a convincing argument for killing Soleimani.