President Trump has gotten specific -- in his fashion -- about the alleged threat General Qasem Soleimani posed to U.S. interests.
President Trump said on Friday that a senior Iranian general killed by a U.S. drone strike had been planning attacks on four U.S. embassies, a claim made to justify the decision but that was at odds with intelligence assessments from senior officials in Trump’s administration.
Trump said this to Laura Ingraham in a Fox News interview.
Trump expanded on comments from a day earlier, when he initially told reporters that Soleimani’s forces “were looking to blow up our embassy” in Baghdad....
“Did [Soleimani] have large-scale attacks planned for other embassies?” Ingraham asked. “And if those were planned, why can’t we reveal that to the American people? Wouldn’t that help your case?”
“I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies,” Trump said.
No one else in the administration is making this claim -- at least for now.
But a senior administration official and a senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information, said they were only aware of vague intelligence about a plot against the embassy in Baghdad and that the information did not suggest a fully formed plot. Neither official said there were threats against multiple embassies.
The senior defense official did not directly contradict Trump but said there was concern that there might be an attempt to place a bomb at the Baghdad embassy....
“We had specific information on an imminent threat, and those threats included attacks on U.S. embassies period full stop,” [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo told reporters at a briefing on new sanctions being levied on Iran for its missile attack.
When asked again if the threat was against a single embassy, Pompeo replied, “Against American facilities including American embassies, military bases, American facilities throughout the region.”
No one said four -- only Trump. Which brings me to what I'll call Steve M.'s Law: Not everything Trump says is a lie, but any Trump utterance that includes a number is a lie.
I shouldn't take credit for this. I'm piggybacking on the work of Daniel Dale, the tireless Trump fact-checker who used to work at the Toronto Star and now reports for CNN. Dale said this about Trump last year.
A large percentage of his numbers, his figures, are incorrect. So literally any time he cites a figure, I'm on extra alert. I know I have to Google that.
Dale notes that Trump's numbers undergo "lieflation." Here's an example:
And then there's Trump's approval rating among Republicans. Here's Dale writing in October.
At a campaign rally in October 2018, Trump tentatively referred to what he claimed was his new approval rating with Republicans: "Just came out -- was it 93%?... It's like a record or something like that: 93% have a high approval rating of Trump."
Trump's Republican approval rating was very high at the time -- 89% in Gallup polling -- but not 93%. Still, by January, he was confidently tweeting this "93%" figure.
By June, Trump was citing a "94%" Republican approval rating. We kept fact checking the number every new time he said it; it kept being wrong. And then, in early October and again this week, Trump tweeted: "95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party."
He is still in the 80s. But don't be surprised if he gets to "96%" sometime soon.
Trump is sticking with 95% for now -- he just tweeted that number again a few hours ago...
... but I'm sure he'll claim to be up to 96% soon. Oh, and there's no current poll, not even Rasmussen, that shows Trump with a 53% approval rating overall, or even a rating above 50%. (The current Rasmussen number is 48% and the Real Clear Politics average is 44.8%.)
So, yes, by next week Trump will say that "the Iranians were targeting four ... now they're telling me six embassies." Or maybe he'll say eight. Or ten. Or all of those in sequence. And eventually everyone in the administration and all congressional Republicans will have to agree.
Published with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog