President Donald Trump provided campaign donors with a detailed account of the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian military leader Gen. Maj. Qassem Soleimani Friday evening during a private fundraiser hosted at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida, according to a CNN report. But instead of providing support for the claim that Soleimani was taken out because he posed an “imminent threat,” President Trump only further undercut his administration’s official legal justification for the strike.
In audio of the speech obtained by CNN, the president told attendees that he authorized the strike, not because Soleimani was an imminent threat, but because he said “bad things” about the United States.
Only referring to Soleimani as a “noted terrorist” who “was down on our list,” Trump said he made the decision to authorize the drone strike because the Iranian military leader was “saying bad things about our country,” according to the report.
“How much of this shit do we have to listen to?” Trump asked. “How much are we going to listen to?”
Trump then described being surrounded by military officials as he watched the events leading up to the strike unfold via a remote video feed from “cameras that are miles in the sky.”
“They’re together sir,” Trump recalled a military officials saying as they watched Soleimani meet Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport.
“’Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds. No emotion. 2 minutes and 11 seconds to live, sir. They’re in the car, they’re in an armored vehicle. Sir, they have approximately one minute to live, sir. 30 seconds. 10, 9, 8 …,” he said. “Then all of a sudden: boom.”
The Trump administration has been heavily criticized by lawmakers from both parties for failing to provide evidence that Soleimani had to be killed because he was planning an attack that presented an imminent threat to American lives.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah last week said the classified briefing from senior administration officials on the matter was “demeaning” and “insulting” to both the Congress and the U.S. Constitution.
Trump also falsely claimed that the Soleimani strike took out the leader of Hezbollah, telling the crowd he got “two for the price of one.” But the president was again confusing Kata’ib Hezbollah–the Iraqi-based Shia paramilitary group led by al-Muhandis–with the Shia Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon.
The event reportedly raised $10 million for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and for the Republican National Committee.
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]