The “Faking It” Administration

The House just passed a war powers resolution ordering Trump to withdraw forces engaged in hostilities with Iran. I’ll have more to say when I’ve digested the details. But I heartily approve.

To me, the most disturbing part of the administration’s  non-explanation of the recent “immiment threat” is that they apparently don’t think they have to explain anything. Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, in an interview with NPR, found this frustrating.

LEE: As I recall, one of my colleagues asked a hypothetical involving the supreme leader of Iran. If at that point, the United States government decided that it wanted to undertake a strike against him personally, recognizing that he could be a threat to the United States, would that require authorization for the use of military force? The fact that there was nothing but a refusal to answer that question was perhaps the most deeply upsetting thing to me in that meeting. I think it was unprofessional, inappropriate and reflective of a certain cavalier attitude toward the Constitution to refuse to make a commitment on that front.

This tells us that in the administration’s view that is no circumstance in which they feel they must consult with Congress before taking some military action. Greg Sargent:

“It would be hard to understand assassinating a foreign head of state as anything other than an act of war,” Josh Chafetz, a Cornell law professor and the author of a book on Congress’ hidden powers, told me. “It’s appalling that executive-branch officials would imply, even in responding to a hypothetical question, that they do not need congressional authorization to do it.”

And, of course, there was no “immiment threat.” Alex Ward at Vox:

“They did give us a window on the ‘imminent’ threat, but the window was so large that it doesn’t necessarily constitute ‘imminent,’” the lawmaker said, adding that the stated time frame around what the administration has described as an imminent threat was “days” rather than “weeks.”

“They gave us no time, place, or method” when describing the Soleimani threat, the Congress member continued. “Instead, we got a historical overview of decades-long malign activities from Iran. It begs the question: Was the attack on Soleimani more in retribution for what he’s done, or what he was planning?”

Others said the meeting in the House devolved into pettiness. In one instance, according to a House Democratic aide, a Democratic lawmaker asked a difficult question, prompting the briefers to turn to a Republican for an easier question while ignoring the one just asked. In another moment, a Democratic Congress member asked a multi-part question that briefers failed to answer fully. When the lawmaker tried to follow up, “they got shushed.”

What’s more, the defense and military officials were asked multiple direct questions about the legal justification for Trump to order a strike on Soleimani. Both Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chair, looked uncomfortable, a Democratic aide said, and turned to their legal team because they apparently didn’t have the answers themselves. “There were no justifications,” the Democratic aide said. “It was totally insufficient.”

We’re hearing from multiple sources that the briefers warned legislators not to debate the administration’s actions, because that would “enbolden the enemy.”

The most reasonable explanation for this behavior is that the whole bleeping Trump administration is faking it. They cannot justify the assassination of Soleimani. There was no immiment threat. There is no strategy of how to deal with repurcussions. They lack knowledge of what they’re dealing with. Their entire function is covering Trump’s ass. Trump says jump, and then they scramble around to craft an excuse for jumping.

People who are competent, people who have deep extertise, are not shy about explaning what they do and why they do it. Certainly some matters may be classified, but many members of Congress do have security clearances, I understand. But Trumpers have to keep their actions hidden because they’re stumbling around like drunks and don’t want the world to watch them.