“Don’t the American people have a right to know what specifically was targeted without revealing methods and sources?”, Laura Ingraham asked Donald Trump, in an exclusive interview set to air in its entirety Friday evening.
She was, of course, referring to the purportedly “imminent” threat posed by Qassem Soleimani.
“Well, I don’t think so”, Trump responded.
To be clear, if you’re the president and the question starts with “Don’t the American people have a right to know…” the answer is never (ever) “Well, I don’t think so”.
Even if that is the answer, you don’t say it. You make something up.
For example, the answer can be “Yes, but…” , or it can even be “Normally, of course, but not in this case because…”. But the answer is absolutely never “Well, I don’t think so”.
But it is if you’re Donald Trump and you’re trying to explain away one of the most brazen assassinations in modern geopolitical history.
He went on to reveal what sounds like key information: “We will tell you, probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad”.
Yes, “probably”. But that tells us absolutely nothing – or next to nothing.
For one thing, the embassy in Baghdad was attacked four days previous. Indeed, that attack was one of the factors cited by the administration in the decision to kill Soleimani. It was already effectively under siege. And the administration was in the process of sending more troops to defend it, which means that in all likelihood, they were being drawn into a situation where they would have found themselves in a firefight with Shia militia.
Of course, that would be bad, and Trump seems to be suggesting that there were plans to actually breach the compound or otherwise overrun it. That’s speculation on our part, but suffice to say that if that is the suggestion, it’s implausible, at best. The setup in Baghdad is in no way comparable to Benghazi.
In any event, Trump went on to echo what Mike Pompeo said during his Friday presser with Steve Mnuchin – namely that Soleimani was planning attacks on multiple embassies.
“Did he have large scale attacks planned for other embassies? And if those were planned, why can’t we reveal that to the American people”, Ingraham wondered.
“I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies”, Trump said.
“We had specific information on an imminent threat and that threat stream included attacks on US embassies. Period. Full stop”, Pompeo told reporters. Asked to clarify “imminent”, he said: “It was going to happen”.
And see, that’s the problem. Nobody really doubts the veracity of that assessment. What people doubt is the judgement in assassinating a figure of Soleimani’s stature in a drone strike at an international airport without even bothering to tell Congressional leaders, knowing that such a move had the potential to bring the US into open conflict with a powerful state actor.
Perhaps even more pressing is this question: If the threat was, in fact, so imminent and so far along that there was no time to consult Congress, then why did it not happen anyway, even after his death? And if the answer is that US troops deterred it, then which troops? And where?
As far as whether the US is going to comply with Iraq’s request to withdraw from the country, Trump claimed officials sing a different tune in private. “That’s what they say publicly. They don’t say that privately”, he mused.