Trump Has Shown 'Absolutely No Justification' for Soleimani Assassination, Former CIA Operative Says

Lawmakers from both parties have attacked President Donald Trump's administration for failing to provide compelling evidence of the need to kill top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last week, a landmark operation that pushed Washington and Tehran to the brink of war.

Senators and representatives have been demanding answers from the administration since Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad last week. The major general was the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' clandestine Quds Force, and widely considered one of the most powerful men in the country.

Trump and his senior officials claimed that Soleimani—who is credited with masterminding Tehran's foreign strategy over the past two decades—was killed to prevent imminent attacks on Americans in the Middle East. But the administration has thus far failed to provide any evidence supporting the assertion.

Angry lawmakers slammed Trump's handling of the situation after closed-door Senate and House intelligence briefings ended Wednesday, telling the media that the administration provided no evidence to suggest that Soleimani's assassination was necessary or worth the risk of war with Iran.

On Wednesday, former CIA operative Valerie Plame told MSNBC that she sees troubling parallels with the days leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when President George W. Bush's administration used specious intelligence reports to justify its invasion of the country.

"It sounds like there is absolutely no justification," Plame said of the Soleimani assassination. "We've been lied into war before, unfortunately I had a front row seat to that, and I know how that was approached. And I see this all over again, where the intelligence is so thin."

Plame—who is running for a New Mexico congressional seat later this year—also reminded viewers of the Trump administration's past attacks on the intelligence community, with the president and his allies maligning intelligence agencies for presenting politically inconvenient findings.

"On one hand you have Trump denigrating the intelligence community if they do something that he does not deem in his favor," Plame explained.

"On the other hand, now we're supposed to take everything they say as, 'Trust us, the intelligence community told us that we have information about an imminent threat.' You can't have it both ways."

Reaction to Soleimani's assassination has been largely partisan, with Republicans praising the president for killing a dangerous adversary and Democrats condemning the operation as reckless.

But even Republicans left Wednesday's briefings condemning the White House. Utah Senator Mike Lee was perhaps the most vociferous of the GOP dissenters. He told assembled media that the session was "probably the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I've served in the U.S. Senate."

"They're appearing before a co-equal branch of government responsible for their funding, for their confirmation, for any approval of any military action they might undertake," he added.

"They had to leave after 75 minutes, while they were in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public. I find that absolutely insane. I think it's unacceptable."

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also said the briefing was "less than satisfying."

The administration used the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq resolution to carry out the Soleimani operation. Paul said using the 2002 resolution was "absurd" and an "insult."

Paul added he could see "no way in the world you could logically argue that an authorization to have war with Saddam Hussein has anything to with having war with people currently in Iraq."

Both Paul and Lee said they would now support a Democratic bill limiting the president's ability to take fresh offensive military measures against Iran.

One of the Democratic senators backing the legislation—New Mexico's Tom Udall—said Wednesday that Trump "has not supplied convincing evidence that his strike stopped an imminent attack on U.S. forces." He added, "Nothing we've seen has changed my mind."

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Protesters hold pictures of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani during a demonstration outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on January 5, 2020. YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty