In a column for the Washington Post, conservative Max Boot admitted Donald Trump had multiple legal justifications for ordering the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, but that he damaged any benefit he may have received politically by lying about his reasons for calling in the drone strike.
Or as he put it, "President Trump is a straight shooter. He consistently shoots himself in the foot."
As Boot sees it, Trump consistently undermines everything that he does by lying about it afterward because he is incapable of telling the truth without embellishing it with obvious fabrications.
"Trump’s self-sabotage is even more egregious in the case of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq on Jan. 3. There are multiple legal theories the administration could have used to justify the strike. Soleimani was, after all, one of the leaders of a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that has been responsible for the deaths of an estimated 600 U.S. troops in Iraq — and most recently his proxies were responsible for a rocket attack that killed a U.S. contractor and for an invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad," he wrote.
"President Barack Obama’s lawyers could point to the portion of the [AUMF] resolution that authorized action to 'defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.' (A tip of my fedora to New York University law professor Ryan Goodman for pointing this out to me.) Trump could use the same wording. Obama also invoked the president’s general authority as commander in chief to act in the “national interest” by bombing Libya even without congressional authorization. Trump could easily have made a similar claim to justify the killing of Soleimani, and no one, aside from a few international lawyers, would have been much perturbed," he explained, "But no. To satisfy the legal standard for a preemptive military strike, the Trump administration decided to claim that it was acting to disrupt an 'imminent' attack on U.S. personnel but refused to release any intelligence to buttress its case."
Boot then highlighted how the president has changed his story because people were skeptical of his claims -- only to make his inflate claims even more making them unbelievable.
"So he went from claiming that Soleimani was about to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to claiming he was about to bomb four U.S. embassies. At the rate Trump is going, by Monday he may well be claiming that Soleimani was going to bomb 40 embassies," Boot wrote. "But my Post colleagues Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report that “a senior administration official and a senior defense official” that they spoke with 'were only aware of vague intelligence about a plot against the embassy in Baghdad and that the information did not suggest a fully formed plot. Neither official said there were threats against multiple embassies.'"
Pointing to a report that the president had his hand in another attempt "to kill a senior Quds Force commander in Yemen on the very same day that Soleimani was killed in Iraq," Boot writes, "This begins to look more like an ambitious and premeditated campaign to decapitate the Quds Force rather than a response to a looming threat."
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with that," he suggested. "What the administration is doing is legally — and perhaps even strategically — justifiable. All Trump has to do is come clean with the American people. In this case — unlike in his dealings with Ukraine or Stormy Daniels — it seems doubtful that he has anything disreputable to hide. Yet Trump continues to sabotage his own cause by lying simply because it is his default mode of communication. He thereby distracts attention from what can be presented as a rare foreign policy win to focus attention back on one of his biggest weaknesses: his congenital dishonesty."
You can read the whole piece here.