What Now?! – January 5, 2020

“The White House delivered to Capitol Hill on Saturday a formal notification of the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani as required under the War Powers Act,” the Washington Post reports.

“The War Powers Act of 1973 mandates that the president report to lawmakers within 48 hours of introducing military forces into armed conflict abroad.”

Yale law professor Oona A. Hathaway writing in The Atlantic: “The drone strike that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, raises many legal issues, but one of the most significant—at least to the American constitutional order—is that President Donald Trump ordered the strike without so much as informing Democratic leadership in Congress, disregarding Congress’s essential role in initiating war.”

“If Congress fails to respond effectively, the constitutional order will be broken beyond repair, and the president will be left with the unmitigated power to take the country to war on his own—anywhere, anytime, for any reason.”

New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi: “I’ve had a chance to check in with sources, including two US officials who had intelligence briefings after the strike on Suleimani. Here is what I’ve learned. According to them, the evidence suggesting there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is ‘razor thin’.”

More: “One official described the planning for the strike as chaotic. The official says that following the attack on an Iraqi base which killed an American contractor circa Dec. 27, Trump was presented a menu of options for how to retaliate. Killing Suleimani was the ‘far out option.’”

Richard Haass: “The case for killing Soleimani could be based on his past actions — he masterminded attacks that have killed many Americans — as well as potential ones. The air strike could have constituted a pre-emptive attack, if, as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo asserted on Friday, the Iranian general was planning new attacks that were in fact imminent. That would be consistent with self-defense under international law.”

“But what may be legally justifiable is not the same as a prudent course of action. U.S. strategy towards Iran under Donald Trump’s administration has been controversial from the outset.”

Associated Press: “For now, Republicans are holding the line behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s position that they should start the trial and hear arguments from House prosecutors and Trump’s defense team before deciding what to do.”

“But small cracks in GOP unity have appeared, with two Republican senators criticizing McConnell’s pledge of ‘total coordination’ with the White House during the impeachment trial.”

“Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was ‘disturbed’ by the GOP leader’s comments, adding that there should be distance between the White House and the Senate on how the trial is conducted. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, meanwhile, called the pledge by McConnell, R-Ky., inappropriate and said she is open to seeking testimony.”

Washington Post: “FBI agents investigating a lobbyist who has claimed to have close ties to President Trump and his family searched the man’s Northern Virginia home and D.C. office early Thursday looking for evidence of possible fraud.”

“President Trump is not the first American leader to have Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in his sights, but he was the first to pull the trigger,” the AP reports.

“It’s a pattern that has emerged throughout Trump’s presidency. On a range of national security matters, he has cast aside the same warnings that gave his predecessors in both parties pause.”

“At times, he has simply been willing to embrace more risk. In other moments, he has questioned the validity of the warnings altogether, even from experts within his own administration. And he has publicly taken pride in doing so.”

“On Friday afternoon President Trump praised Tucker Carlson along with other conservative Fox News stars,” CNN reports.

“A few hours later Carlson tore into Trump’s decision to authorize the US airstrike that killed Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani. While he mostly refrained from criticized Trump directly, Carlson condemned ‘chest-beaters’ who advocate for foreign interventions.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly expressed his “regret” for the loss of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a call with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, days after Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike, the Daily Beast reports.

According to RT, the Turkish President called Soleimani a “martyr” and said he understood the anger of Iran’s people and leaders.

Wall Street Journal: “Oil companies in the Middle East are tightening security as U.S. officials say American energy infrastructure in the region is a likely target for Iranian retaliation following the killing by the U.S. of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani.”

“With a single momentous decision to authorize a drone strike killing a top Iranian commander in Baghdad, President Trump immediately thrust himself into the center of a volatile and unpredictable region — taking his presidency into just the kind of foreign entanglement he pledged to avoid,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump followed early Friday’s targeted strike on Qasem Soleimani — the leader of Iran’s special-operations forces abroad — with a decision Friday to send an additional 3,500 soldiers to the Middle East to respond to the heightened tensions.”

“Coming in quick succession, the drone strike and troop deployment cast Trump as a pivotal figure in what could be America’s next military conflict with a foreign power. The moves also underscored how Trump’s impulsive approach to the presidency can swiftly upend the status quo to produce a sense of disarray.”

“In the five days prior to launching a strike that killed Iran’s most important military leader, Donald Trump roamed the halls of Mar-a-Lago, his private resort in Florida, and started dropping hints to close associates and club-goers that something huge was coming,” the Daily Beast reports.

“According to three people who’ve been at the president’s Palm Beach club over the past several days, Trump began telling friends and allies hanging at his perennial vacation getaway that he was working on a ‘big’ response to the Iranian regime that they would be hearing or reading about very ‘soon.’”

“The Trump administration disclosed on Friday that there were 20 emails between a top aide to President Trump’s acting chief of staff and a colleague at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget discussing the freeze of a congressionally mandated military aid package for Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“But in response to a court order that it swiftly process those pages in response to a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit filed by The New York Times, the Office of Management and Budget delivered a terse letter saying it would not turn over any of the 40 pages of emails — not even with redactions.”

Los Angeles Times: “When President Trump’s national security team came to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Monday, they weren’t expecting him to approve an operation to kill Gen. Qassem Suleimani.”

Washington Post: “Why Trump chose this moment to explore an operation against the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, after tolerating Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf for months, was a matter of debate within his own administration. Officials gave differing and incomplete accounts of the intelligence they said prompted Trump to act. Some said they were stunned by his decision, which could lead to war with one of America’s oldest adversaries in the Middle East.”

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