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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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Trump’s ‘full-on racism’ will ‘go way uglier’ as election nears: Ex-White House official

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On MSNBC Saturday, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci warned that President Donald Trump's toxicity on race relations will only worsen in the run-up to the election in November.

"You were in charge, for a brief time, but for communications from this White House, and it does seem that Trump is going there because that's where he thinks he has to go," said host Joy Reid. "92 percent of African-Americans, not surprisingly, disapprove of Donald Trump's handling of race. But even 57 percent of white Americans disapprove of his handling of race relations. There's a lot of white marchers out there, marching for Black Lives Matter. Has he miscalculated and misread white people, at least the majority of them, in this moment?"

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2020 Election

Trump leveled in brutal Never-Trumper Republican ad accusing him of turning US into a ‘banana republic’

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In an ad released by Republicans Voter Against Trump, the president was accused of turning the U.S. into a "banana republic" after he commuted the sentence of Roger Stone who was convicted of multiple felonies.

Coming just hours after the president handed Stone a get-out-of-jail-card that kept him from turning himself into jail later this month, the dissident Republican group posted their new ad to Twitter which accused Stone of "lying under to oath" to protect Trump, while also noting that Stone was looking at three years in jail.

The ad also notes that a "criminal who lies to protect Trump goes free."

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2020 Election

‘Donald Trump is going to get indicted’ when New York gets his tax returns: David Cay Johnston

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On Saturday's edition of MSNBC's "AM Joy," Pulitzer Prize-winning Trump biographer David Cay Johnston predicted that the Supreme Court's decision on President Donald Trump's tax returns will lead to an indictment from New York prosecutors.

"What do you think might be out there?" asked host Joy Reid.

"Well, Donald Trump has already had two income tax fraud trials by the state of New York and the city of New York," said Johnston. "They were civil fraud, not criminal fraud. The New York Times in October of 2018, in this brilliant project on Trump's taxes based on records we know came from his niece — without question, he and his siblings are major-league tax cheats."

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