WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General William Barr held a press conference on Monday to discuss the findings of an investigation into the terror attack on a Florida Naval base in December and other topics, at one point defending the Trump administration’s elimination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani.
A reporter asked Barr if the Trump administration gave any “special consideration” to Soleimani’s position in the Iranian government – the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, an arm dedicated to external acts of terrorism.
“Did you give any special consideration of the fact that he was a senior official of another government,” the reporter asked, “that he was a general of Iran?”
“He was the head of a terrorist organization,” Barr said, adding that that made him a legitimate military target.
A reporter with CNN asked Barr if the drone strike violated the Constitution.
“Can you explain to people in Congress, including conservatives who have questions about whether or not this was a constitutional strike given the fact that the Constitution gives Congress the right to declare war — and in this case obviously this was an act of war — and they were not consulted?” the reporter asked.
“I believe the president clearly had the authority to act as he did,” Barr said, adding that Iran instigated hostilities and the U.S. had the right to respond.
“We had a situation where the Iranians had already embarked on a series of escalating violent action taken against our allies, taken against the American people, our troops; with the avowed purpose of driving us out of the Middle East,” Barr said.
“They had attacked shipping the Strait of Hormuz; they had attacked oil fields in Saudi Arabia; they had attacked U.S. bases; they had attacked our embassy; they had killed Americans,” Barr said.
“These ongoing attacks were being planned and orchestrated by Soleimani,” Barr said. “Our ability to deter attacks had obviously broken down. The Iranians had been given a number of red lines and were crossing those lines.”
Barr said the Iranians seemed to think they could continue their aggressions “with impunity.”
“The general in charge of these operations, Soleimani, was clearly a legitimate military target,” Barr said. “We have a very brief window of time to carry out the attack when he arrived in Baghdad to plan and orchestrate follow up attacks on American interests and American people [and] personnel.”
“So this was a legitimate act of self-defense because it disrupted ongoing attacks that were being conducted,” Barr said, adding that it also acts as a deterrent to future attacks rather than starting a broader conflict.
Barr also commented on the debate on whether there was an “imminent” threat from Iran ahead of the drone attack.
“The concept of imminent attack is something of a red herring,” Barr said, given that attacks were already underway.
“I don’t think there’s a requirement, frankly, for knowing the exact time and place of the next attack,” Barr said. “And that certainly was the position of the Obama administration when it droned leaders of terrorist organizations.”
On the Pensacola shooting, Barr definitively branded it a terrorist act.
“This was an act of terrorism,” Barr said. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by Jihadist ideology.”
Barr praised his agency and the FBI for its “rapid and excellent work.”
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