Report further connects Trump's impeachment fears, airstrike

Questions about why Trump authorized the Jan. 3 airstrike aren't about catching him in a lie or playing "gotcha."
Image: TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-ELECTIONS-TRUMP
Donald TrumpSAUL LOEB / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

The official White House explanation for the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani -- or more accurately, explanations -- can no longer be taken seriously. Donald Trump and his team have changed direction several times, in meandering and contradictory ways, to the point that their rhetoric on the subject is literally unbelievable.

But the point of the scrutiny is not to document the latest in an endless stream of presidential lies. It's also not some elaborate "gotcha" exercise. What's important here is coming to terms with why in the world the American president risked a war on Jan. 3, and whether Trump put his political interests above our national security interests with his decision.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that in the wake of the airstrike, the president "told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate." Over the weekend, the New York Times reported something similar:

He told some associates that he wanted to preserve the support of Republican hawks in the Senate in the coming impeachment trial, naming Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas as an example, even though they had not spoken about Iran since before Christmas.

This is, of course, exactly the kind of scenario that shouldn't happen. When a Commander in Chief is making a life-and-death decision, which risks not only a war but further destabilizing the Middle East, he shouldn't be thinking about how his directive might help his impeachment trial defense.

Indeed, as we discussed last week, it adds an ironic twist to the circumstances: Trump was impeached in part for putting his political interests above our national security interests. If the latest reporting is correct, it led him to make another decision that put his political interests above our national security interests.

That may well serve as the basis for yet another White House scandal, which Team Trump is unprepared to respond to, since it seems incapable of offering a consistent, honest, and straightforward answer to the most basic of questions: why exactly did the president authorize this airstrike?

The more Trump and his team struggle with this, the easier it is to believe the president risked a war because he's worried about his impeachment crisis.

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