President Trump reportedly decided to authorize the strike that killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani on Thursday just a couple days earlier.
According to a CNN report Friday, a senior administration official said that Trump made his decision right as he received specific intelligence that the Iranians had been working against U.S. interests in the region and that “Soleimani was in the region to pull together those last strings to activate.”
CNN reported that a congressional source shared a similar sentiment, saying that there was credible intelligence that Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards and Iraq affiliates were working on multiple attacks. However, the source mentioned that this had been the case for a long time and did not say what specifically spurred the strike or elevated the threat’s existence.
According to CNN, the planning process of the strike gained momentum upon Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s arrival at Mar-a-Lago on Sunday. Esper and Pompeo reportedly presented Trump with intel related to multiple threats and Soleimani’s movement, which two sources told CNN were pivotal to the President’s decision to authorize the strike.
An administration official told CNN that before Trump’s authorization of the strike, White House lawyers were in consultation with national security officials in putting together a “strong rationale” that the strike targeting Soleimani wouldn’t spur a war and that Trump had the authority as commander in chief to not request congressional authorization over a matter of self defense — the legal rationale behind the administration failing to give Congress a heads up before the strike’s authorization.
“We did not feel the need to ask for authorization over basic rights of self defense,” the administration official told CNN.
Although the official wouldn’t say what intelligence prompted the strike, CNN reported that it became clear that Soleimani took the lead in a specific and imminent threat against the U.S.
Read CNN’s report here.