After days of shifting justifications for the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, an unenlightening briefing that enraged even some Republican lawmakers and a decision by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to snub the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s invitation to testify about Iran, Trump essentially told us, “So what if we lied?”

“It doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past,” Trump wrote. The administration has held Soleimani, as head of Iran’s Quds Force, responsible for orchestrating Iran’s use of proxy forces in terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, and the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers over the years, long before the threat it has said justified the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike that killed him.
In a separate tweet, Trump emphasized Soleimani’s past actions rather than the threat of future attacks.

It actually does matter, both from a constitutional and policy perspective. It matters because it further erodes his near-nonexistent credibility. It matters because it is one thing to risk war to prevent imminent harm and quite another to risk war by taking the most provocative action to reestablish deterrence that the president frittered away.

The Post’s report confirms that “Based on what is known so far, Trump’s statement was at best an unfounded theory and at worst a falsehood. At each turn in the commander in chief’s rapidly evolving narrative of why he authorized the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the machinery of government scrambled to adapt and respond.”

The result is a credibility crisis for an administration that has long struggled to communicate factual information to the public.

To make matters worse, Trump again falsely smeared Democrats by insisting they were defending Soleimani. And if that were not disgusting enough, he also “retweeted posts critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). One, saying ‘Who in America supports this mullah’s crime? Answer: Nancy Pelosi,’ included a photograph of a body hanging from barbed wire strung over a fence.” Oh, and one more: He retweeted a photoshopped image showing Pelosi in a head-covering and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish, wearing a turban. They were pictured in front of an Iranian flag.

This juvenile, insulting and bigoted depiction of Americans seeking to uphold the Constitution received what was supposed to be, I guess, a defense from the inaptly titled press secretary (who gives no press briefings), Stephanie Grisham. She pathetically claimed on Fox News, “I think the president is making clear that the Democrats have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans.” That is doubling down, not apologizing, and reflects that the entire White House, far from embarrassed and trying to restrain Trump, now hails his outbursts which vilify his opponents in religiously offensive ways.

What to do about these people? For one thing, Pompeo should be subpoenaed to testify if he won’t appear voluntarily. Allowing him to squirm away from a public grilling is a mistake that will only encourage further lying and disrespect for an equal branch of government. Second, the House should pass a resolution of condemnation for the president’s grotesque language and tweets. Sure, they could spend all their time passing resolutions without impact, but it is important periodically to declare that this conduct is un-American and unacceptable. Third, if nothing else, the president’s imperious attitude and his secretary of state’s disdain for Congress should underscore the need for passage of the war powers resolution in the Senate and for financial restrictions on the administration’s use of funds for offensive action absent consultation with Congress.

Trump’s dissembling might be one reason most Americans distrust him. In the national Quinnipiac poll released on Monday, 45 percent say the killing of Soleimani made us less safe, only 32 percent said it made us more safe. In contrast to Trump advisers who seem eager to start a war, "Nearly two thirds of voters, 64 percent, would oppose the United States going to war against Iran, while 26 percent would support going to war.”

Voters do not trust Trump to act unilaterally. Sixty-five percent “think President Trump should consult Congress if he plans to launch more military strikes in the Middle East. Democrats think he should consult with Congress 90-8 percent and independents think he should consult with Congress 71-24 percent, while Republicans think the president should not consult with Congress 57-34 percent.” It is noteworthy that even a third of Republicans do not want him acting alone.

Finally, 51 percent of respondents disapprove of his handling of Iran while 43 approve, following other polling that shows remarkable objection to the commander in chief’s behavior in the wake of a terrorist’s killing. If Trump was intending to get public support for this impulsive and reckless action, he vastly miscalculated.

If Trump’s pattern here strikes you as vaguely familiar, you are not alone. Recall that in the Russia investigation, Trump claimed “no contacts” existed between his campaign and Russians, then (over and over again) began his mantra of “no collusion." Turning on a dime, he eventually insisted that even if his campaign was in frequent contact with the Russians it did not matter. Indeed, he’d take help again from a foreign power. Deny, deny, “so what?" is now the all-purpose response to scandal.

When he moved on (as he said he would have no problem doing) to seeking more interference from a foreigner, he first insisted his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was perfect. That became "no quid pro quo, no quid pro quo.” Finally, the line was that there was a quid pro quo but we should “get over it.”

This sort of lying, followed by defiance of legal and constitutional norms, says to the public that Trump can essentially say anything, lie with impunity and then, when found out, accuse opponents of making a mountain out of a mole hill out over what he had been vigorously and falsely denying for months.

The House has a solemn obligation to investigate whether Trump instigated military action on false pretenses and/or used a military action to divert attention from impeachment (or to ingratiate himself with Republican hard-liners). Lawmakers’ oaths of office require them to conduct vigorous oversight, expose gross wrongdoing and then devise a legislative response to prevent or curtail such conduct. One impeachment does not mean there cannot be new articles of impeachment — and it sure doesn’t mean scrutiny of his dishonest and reckless foreign policy should stop.

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