The House of Representatives voted last week on a resolution to restrict President Trump’s ability to attack Iran without provocation. The vote was split along party lines among Colorado’s delegation, with all four Democrats in approval and all three Republicans voting “NO.”
Colorado’s three Republican Members of Congress — Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Ken Buck (R-Greeley), and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) — may soon be looking for avenues to walk this vote back. As Aaron Blake explains for The Washington Post, President’s Trump’s ever-changing rationale for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani “has utterly fallen apart”:
Trump has said in recent days that Soleimani was planning to “blow up” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and also that he was going after “four embassies.”
But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper revealed on talk shows Sunday that the idea that Soleimani was about to attack four embassies wasn’t based on intelligence. Instead, he said it was simply something Trump and others “believed” to be the case.
Here’s Esper trying to explain Trump’s comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” over the weekend:
“What the president said was, he believed it probably could have been. He didn’t cite intelligence.”
“He believed it probably could have been.”
Trump administration officials are scrambling to understand and explain Trump’s Friday comments. Members of Congress who were briefed last week on the Iran strike said this was the first they had heard about a potential attack on American embassies. If there was such intelligence indicating this type of attack, nobody bothered to alert any of the embassies that would have theoretically been at risk.
Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote on a similar War Powers Resolution as soon as this week. Though Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) hasn’t yet had to cast that vote, he is in a worse spot than his Colorado colleagues after he came out last week in full-throated defense of the killing of Soleimani. Said Gardner:
“I commend the administration for taking decisive action last week in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists planning an imminent attack on American targets. The administration’s action, with regard to Qassem Soleimani, was not only decisive, but necessary and legal under longstanding presidential authority to protect American lives from imminent attack.”
Decisive? Only in that Soleimani is definitely dead, since the threat from Iran is probably stronger now than ever before (according to polling from Quinnipiac University, most Americans polled now think that we are less safe as a result of Soleimani’s death).
Necessary and legal? Was it necessary and legal to kill an Iranian General and bring the United States to the brink of war based on something that “probably could have been” a threat? That’s almost a rhetorical question now.
Gardner has long portrayed himself as something of a foreign policy expert in the U.S. Senate, but now Democratic Senate candidates can tee off on Gardner as uninformed and dangerous when it comes to dealing with foreign threats. Much of what Jennifer Rubin writes about Trump for The Washington Post today could also apply to Gardner:
The ever-shifting explanations for Trump’s conduct are emblematic of how his utter lack of credibility in the national security realm has come back to haunt him. He has gone from smearing the intelligence community, to praising it, to inventing intelligence. The media too often pretend that there is credence to his assertions or that maybe there is some super-secret intelligence that cannot be shared with them.
Trump has a consistent pattern of misleading the public and out-and-out lying. He has ignored uncontroverted intelligence, hyped false allegations and now given what seems like false justification for launching offensive military action without congressional authorization.
Colorado’s Republican Members of Congress bizarrely decided to take Trump’s word on Iran when they came to his defense. Now they’ll need to decide on which Iran story to take seriously from here on out.