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Trump put himself in new legal jeopardy with dubious claim Suleimani posed an ‘imminent threat’: law experts

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According to a compilation of legal opinions pulled together by Business Insider, President Donald Trump may have opened himself up to more legal problems — including another article of impeachment — as his claim that Iranian military leader Qassem Suleimani was an “imminent threat” to the US and its overseas properties have fallen apart.

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Following a weekend where Defense Secretary Mark Esper appeared on the cable talk shows and attempted to defend the president’s claim that multiple embassies were threatened, the administration’s claims of threats have fallen apart.

With lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who were briefed on the intelligence questioning the thinness of the information shared — and new reports noting that the supposed embassies were never warned — the president’s surprise drone-killing of the popular Iranian leader is facing new scrutiny.

“Trump and key administration officials had for days argued that the president’s decision to assassinate Soleimani by drone strike earlier in January were justified because he posed an ‘imminent threat’ to US forces in the Middle East. But when pressed on the details, they were less than convincing,” Business Insider reports before asking, “So why bother making the argument that Soleimani posed an imminent threat, if it never really mattered all along?”

“The answer, legal experts say, is that it puts the Trump administration on stronger legal ground as it faces scrutiny for bypassing Congress to order the killing,” the report continues.

According to Oona Hathaway, a professor of international law at Yale law school, “The only legal route Trump could take to get round the requirement for congressional and UN Security Council approval for the military action would be to show that it was taken in self defense.”

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 “In both cases, the exception is narrow,” she wrote for The Atlantic. “The threat must be so extreme and imminent that it would be unreasonable to seek the necessary approvals before taking action to defend the country.”

According to Gary Solis, a retired West Point professor of law, “There are norms of international behavior that allow us to identify, apprehend, and try terrorists. We can’t have a civilized world if we don’t follow the law.”

“He notes that the war on terror is a never-ending fight but not a technical war as defined by law. To justify the killing under the AUMF then there would have had to be a specific ‘imminent threat’ rather than a general sense that Soleimani is a bad guy who doesn’t like Americans. And, most notably, Soleimani was also a general in the Iranian army, which means he can’t necessarily be dealt with like non-state actors,” he told Quartz.

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“The Democrat-led House could move to hold Trump accountable for the decision if it is indeed found that no ‘imminent’ danger was posed, but in a Congress deeply divided along partisan lines it’s a move that would likely run aground,” the report notes, with Solis adding, “How would we feel if Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was killed on a visit to Canada in a Canadian airport?”

You can read more here.

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Seth Meyers: You know Trump isn’t the chief law enforcement officer because he couldn’t pass the physical

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"Late Night" host Seth Meyers warned that the United States is sliding into authoritarianism under President Donald Trump.

Sounding the alarm Wednesday evening, Meyers cited reports that Trump was making lists of disloyal people, purging them from their jobs, hiring unqualified cronies in top posts, and claiming he has the right to interfere in criminal cases.

While speaking to the press last week, Trump even announced that he's allowed to be involved in all criminal cases because he's the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. It's actually a title used for the attorney general.

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Conservative columnist nails the infectious diseases the Trump White House is suffering from

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On Wednesday, conservative columnist Max Boot revealed the "diseases" at the heart of President Donald Trump's administration that are weakening their capacity to respond to the very real disease threat from coronavirus.

Simply put: Fevered nationalism, hatred of the civil service, and a pathological desire to erase the legacy of President Barack Obama.

"Covid-19 has already infected more than 80,000 people in 37 countries, causing more than 2,600 deaths, and experts doubt it will slow in the spring," wrote Boot. "That a virus that started in China could have a bad impact on the United States should be no surprise: Diseases don’t respect borders any more than terrorists or trade flows do. Transnational threats require transnational solutions. To cite but one example, many of the medicines and medical supplies that Americans need, including N95 face masks, come from China."

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Trump’s health secretary learned Pence was taking over coronavirus outbreak moments before press conference

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President Donald Trump apparently left Secretary Alex Azar out of the loop on Vice President Mike Pence taking over the coronavirus response.

According to the Washington Post, Azar was "blindsided" by the decision, according to five people familiar with the incident. Azar learned about it moments before the press conference this afternoon.

Pence said that he would run a task force at the Department of Health and Human Services, which Azar is in charge of.

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