“It was probably the worst briefing I’ve seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate”, Mike Lee said last week, after emerging from a closed-door briefing with top Trump administration officials, who attempted to explain to lawmakers why it was necessary to assassinate Iran’s most revered general with a drone strike at an international airport.
Lee said he was “somewhat unsatisfied” that he had been given a sufficient rationale regarding the “the legal, factual and moral justification for the attack”.
Rand Paul was similarly unconvinced by Mark Esper, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and Mark Milley. It goes without saying that Democrats came away wholly dubious.
A day later, the House voted to curtail Trump’s war powers. Matt Gaetz, one of the president’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill, sided with Democrats, as did two other GOPers, although the vote was generally along party lines.
The Senate is expected to take up a similar resolution this week.
“I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies”, Trump told Fox’s Laura Ingraham Friday.
“We had specific information on an imminent threat and that threat stream included attacks on US embassies. Period. Full stop”, Pompeo told reporters, while announcing new sanctions on Iran. Asked to clarify “imminent”, he said: “It was going to happen”.
Lee did his best to avoid calling America’s top diplomat and the president liars, but that was the gist of it. “In the briefing, did they say anything about four US embassies?”, Tapper asked Lee.
“I didn’t hear anything about that and several of my colleagues have said the same”, Lee said. “That was news to me”.
Asked specifically about Pompeo’s contention that he in fact informed lawmakers, Lee all but called the Secretary of State a liar. “I don’t recall being told ‘Look there were four embassies'”.
Hopefully, the American public understands what happened here. The Trump administration lost patience with the Quds’ Shia militias earlier this month when a US contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an outpost in Iraq. At that point, Trump bombed Kataib Hezbollah targets and then, when the embassy in Baghdad was the site of violent demonstrations, he green-lighted the (figurative) nuclear option – he instructed the Pentagon and the CIA to proceed with plans to target Soleimani.
That’s not to say that Soleimani wasn’t planning to target US personnel and troops. It’s simply to suggest that the administration is engaged in an effort to spin those plans as wholly different and more spectacular than what had been going on for 16 years when, on balance, that just wasn’t the case.