A press spokesman for Donald Trump is coming under fire after making a controversial claim that Barack Obama “killed” Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Hogan Gidley, who serves as deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary, took to Twitter in an attempt to defend Trump’s decision to launch a pre-emptive strike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. The White House has faced brisk criticism for its claim that Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks against the United States, while not giving any specific details about where or when these were to take place. The administration has begun to push back strongly against critics.
In his tweet, Gidley attempted to claim that Obama launched similar attacks when he was president, including one which Gidley claimed killed ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi.
“Soleimani was, in fact, planning ‘imminent attacks.’ While Democrats and the media quibble over its definition, quick point: When Obama killed bin Laden, al-Awlaki and Gaddafi, without Congressional approval, there were NO ‘imminent attacks’ and Democrats did not ask or care,” he wrote.
As many pointed out, Gaddafi was captured and killed by Libyan protesters during the Arab Spring in 2011 following a NATO operation to topple his regime. As The Hill reported, others pointed out that Congress did approve legislation allowing the U.S. military to attack senior al-Qaeda leaders, which gave both President George W. Bush and Obama permission to kill both Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden if they were located.
The Trump administration has faced growing pressure to justify its attack on Soleimani, which increased tensions with Iran and led to a series of Iranian missile strikes against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops. A number of U.S. senators spoke out about the action this week after they received an intelligence briefing on the strike that killed Soleimani. Republican Mike Lee blasted the briefing as the worst he had ever seen in his nine years in the U.S. Senate.
Trump himself justified his decision not to notify Congress before the attack by claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have leaked the plans.
“They’re saying, ‘You should get permission from Congress, you should come in and tell us what you want to do — you should come in and tell us, so that we can call up the fake news that’s back there, and we can leak it,'” Trump said at a rally on Thursday night, via Fox News. “Lot of corruption back there.”