According to a new report in the Wall Street Journal, the scenario surrounding the recent assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani that many feared may have actually played out. The publication says that Trump told associates that he ordered the strike at least in part to appeal to war-hungry Republican Senators who are set to be the front lines of Trump’s defense in his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. In other words, according to this report, a desperate president decided to drag the United States into possible lethal violent conflict with Iran explicitly for the political benefits that he thought would ensue.
Business Insider notes that according to the report, Trump “told associates that he assassinated Iran’s top military leader in part to appease Republican senators who’ll play a crucial role in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial.” Apparently, the president also told associates that he “felt “under pressure” to satisfy senators who were pushing for stronger US action against Soleimani and who will run defense for him on impeachment.”
There’s evidence for this idea, too. The Trump administration did not brief Congressional leaders ahead of the strike, no matter the easily palpable national security implications — but the president did brief Lindsey Graham! Graham, of course, is one of the president’s most vocal defenders in Congress, especially in the impeachment saga. On Thursday, Graham — who serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — introduced a resolution demanding that House Democrats immediately transmit their impeachment case to the Senate, where Republicans have a seemingly fixed trial ready and waiting to begin and deliver an acquittal for the president. Was the resolution political payback from Graham for the strike?
Graham has at times vocally criticized the president’s military decisions, including withdrawals of troops from northern Syria — but he’s publicly lauded the strike that killed Soleimani, no matter the immediate danger into which it plunged the United States. During a Fox News appearance shortly after the incident, he glibly (and ignorantly, considering threats of retaliation) exclaimed:
‘For the first time in my life time the Iranians are worried about the Americans. It used to be that we were worried about the Iranians exclusively.’
Separately, he confirmed to Fox News that yes, the president briefed him prior to the Soleimani strike plans. He explained:
‘I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida. I appreciate being brought into the orbit.’
These revelations of explicitly stated political overtones to the Soleimani strike highlight the glaring lack of support for the official explanation from the White House that the assassination was meant to thwart an imminent attack on U.S. interests. On Thursday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the administration didn’t actually know “precisely when” or “where” this imminent strike would take place — but that doesn’t exactly support the imminence idea! Imminence means that something is about to happen, not that it may happen… somewhere… at some point. After Congressional briefings this week, numerous Democrats and at least a couple of Republicans bluntly condemned the administration’s behavior.