The apparent lack of intelligence supporting Donald Trump's decision to assassinate Qasssem Soleimani has both Democrats and Republicans wondering about the validity of claims that the top Iranian general was planning attacks on four U.S. embassies.
Trump now says it "doesn't really matter" if Soleimani posed an imminent threat to U.S. interests. Additionally, NBC News reports that five current and former senior administration officials claim the president authorized the killing of the military leader back in June if Iranian aggression led to the death of an American.
According to the report, Trump's directive required his "final signoff" on any operation aimed at killing Soleimani.
"There have been a number of options presented to the president over the course of time," a senior administration official allegedly said, noting that Soleimani's assassination was an option put on the table "some time ago."
Officials reportedly told NBC that former national security adviser John Bolton pushed for Soleimani's assassination following Iran's attack on a U.S. drone in June. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- who allegedly wanted Soleimani dead before Pompeo retires from public service -- also reportedly supported killing Soleimani at the time. Despite the pressure, Trump supposedly rejected the idea and said he would only take such action in the face of an American death.
Per Bloomberg, Attorney General William Barr claims that the Department of Justice was "consulted" before the assassination.
"Frankly, I don't think it was a close call," Barr told reporters Monday. "I believe that the president clearly had the authority to act as he did on numerous different bases."
According to Barr, the current division in Congress over the lack of intelligence supporting the theory of an imminent attack is "something of a red herring."
"I believe there was intelligence of an imminent attack. I don't think there's a requirement, frankly, for knowing the exact time and place of the next attack, and that certainly was the position of the Obama administration when they droned leaders of terrorist organizations."Others, such as Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, have expressed dismay at Trump's decision to circumvent Congress, noting that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to declare war. On Sunday's edition of CNN's State of the Union, Lee said he was "worried" about the integrity of the Trump administration's intelligence on Iran. The Utah senator said he has "learned" not to blindly accept the claims of the federal government and noted the false justifications used for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.