Fox News Judge Says Trump Violated 'Domestic and International Law' and Christian Principles by Killing Iran's Soleimani

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano argued that President Donald Trump had violated "domestic and international law" – as well as "basic Judeo-Christian moral principles" and two executive orders by former Republican presidents – by ordering the military drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq last Friday.

Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, laid out his criticism of the president's controversial strike targeting the Iranian official, who had commanded the nation's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force, in an editorial published by Fox News on Thursday. The legal expert noted that the president's actions were counter to the Constitution and international legal precedent dating back hundreds of years.

"Can the president kill foreign military personnel and claim the justification of self-defense? The laws of war permit him to do that, but self-defense – actually, defense of the country – only comes into play when the foreign military personnel are physically engaged in killing Americans or are certainly about to do so," Napolitano explained. "That justification only applies – the law here is 600 years old and has been consistently applied – when force is imminent and certain."

Mourners in Iran
Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike on January 6, in Tehran, Iran Majid Saeedi/Getty

The former judge asserted that Trump's decision had also gone against the Constitution, which requires Congress to authorize any act of war. Additionally, Napolitano pointed out that the president's decision to target an individual on the belief that they would carry out future attacks against American interests went against executive orders by former GOP Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Ronald Reagan, which the Trump administration had not "negated."

"Roaming the world looking for monsters to slay not only violates long-standing principles of American domestic and international law, but also it violates basic Judeo-Christian moral principles, which teach that the end does not justify the means and might does not make right," he wrote.

Trump and his administration have argued that the threat from Soleimani was "imminent," claiming that American targets and interests within the region would have been attacked if he was not killed.

William Banks, a professor of law, public administration and international affairs, told Newsweek in an email that the president's justification would make the strike legal.

"The President almost surely had the legal authority to target Soleimani based on the White House statement that Iran was planning 'imminent' strikes against Americans or United States interests in the region," Banks said. "As such, the strike against him was defensive, defending against a continuing course of terrorist actions."

But Democratic lawmakers, as well as some Republicans, have expressed a high level of skepticism over the administration's claim, particularly after a closed-door briefing on Wednesday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley were sent to explain the intelligence and rationale behind the strike to members of the House and Senate, but many members of Congress voiced significant criticism after the meeting.

: "It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch of government…to come in and tell us that we can't debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran. It's un-American. It's unconstitutional and it's wrong."

— CSPAN (@cspan) January 8, 2020

GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had already spoken critically of Trump's decision to kill Soleimani, argued that the administration's justification was "absurd" and an "insult."

Fellow Republican Senator Mike Lee expressed similar frustration. "I find this insulting and demeaning," he said.

Democrats in the House of Representatives are expected to pass a War Powers resolution in an attempt to curb the president's ability to carry out further military strikes against Iran and assert Congress' constitutional authority. While the legislation will likely be approved in the Democratic-controlled lower chamber of Congress, it is uncertain that it would make it through the Republican-dominated Senate.