In a legally-mandated memo to Congress, the Trump White House outlined its legal rationale for carrying out the January drone strike to kill top Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad. The two-page unclassified memo comes after a series of evolving justifications from the White House that predicated the need to carry out the brazen assassination attempt outside the constitutional war-making powers of Congress on what Trump officials described as an “imminent threat” to American lives. In the memo, however, the Trump administration offered only broad security justifications for the attack, a provocation that had the potential to tip the two countries into war, but provided no evidence of an imminent threat. “Iran’s past and present activities, coupled with intelligence at the time of the air strike, indicated that Iran’s Qods Force posed a threat to the United States in Iraq,” the memo explains, “and the air strike against Soleimani was intended to protect United States personnel and deter future Iranian attack plans against United States forces and interests in Iraq and threats emanating from Iraq.”
February 16, 2020
New York Times
More than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials called on Attorney General William P. Barr on Sunday to step down after he intervened last week to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr.
They also urged current government employees to report any signs of unethical behavior at the Justice Department to the agency’s inspector general and to Congress.
“Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,” the former Justice Department lawyers, who came from across the political spectrum, wrote in an open letter on Sunday. Those actions, they said, “require Mr. Barr to resign.” […]
Strikingly, the lawyers called upon current department employees to be on the lookout for future abuses and to be willing to bring oversight to the department.
“Be prepared to report future abuses to the inspector general, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress,” they wrote, and “to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office.”
February 16, 2020
When intelligence officials briefed President Donald Trump on the most worrisome terrorist threats during the first two years of his tenure, they regularly mentioned the names of the senior terror figures the CIA was working hardest to find and kill, including the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Trump would ultimately greenlight successful strikes on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Yemeni al Qaeda chief Qasim al-Rimi — perhaps the most significant names on the CIA list of potential U.S. targets.
But he was more interested in a young and less influential figure much farther down the list, according to two people familiar with the briefings, because he recognized the name.
“He would say, ‘I’ve never heard of any of these people. What about Hamza bin Laden?'” one former official said.
“That was the only name he knew,” a Pentagon official added.
Although Osama bin Laden’s youngest son was not believed to be planning attacks, the U.S. ultimately carried out an airstrike that killed him in 2018, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. At first, officials weren’t sure of his fate, but in July, NBC News was the first to report that U.S. officials believed he was dead.
February 16, 2020