A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 155th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

The Trump Administration's alleged justification for killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani fell apart as their mountain of lies about Iran collapsed.
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, meets with senior White House advisors Tuesday evening, Jan. 7, 2020, in the Situation Room of the White House, on a meeting about Iran’s missile attacks on U.S. military facilities in Iraq. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, meets with senior White House advisors Tuesday evening, Jan. 7, 2020, in the Situation Room of the White House, on a meeting about Iran’s missile attacks on U.S. military facilities in Iraq. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is emblematic of his administration: An impulsive, frantically thrown together group of characters with virtually no oversight. After Trump was sworn in, I started writing the weekly “Unpresidented” column, analyzing every day of his presidency. This is week 155.

This week, it became crystal clear that the Trump Administration has been lying to the American people about the basis for killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. After President Trump launched an airstrike on Soleimani last week, the world was told it was due to an “imminent attack.” Like much of what comes out of President Trump’s mouth, it appears to be made up.

After Iran launched retaliatory strikes on Iraqi airbases housing US troops, President Trump held a press conference on Wednesday morning where he didn’t present any evidence of the imminent threat that sparked the retaliation in the first place. That same day, Trump Administration officials briefed Congress on the alleged intelligence that justified the Soleimani strike. Even some Senate Republicans were outraged by the briefing, with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) calling it “insulting” and probably the “worst briefing” he’s ever attended on military matters.

As their narrative continued to crumble, President Trump, apparently out of thin air, began to claim that Soleimani was planning to target multiple U.S. embassies. Several US Senators confirmed they heard no such thing in the Trump Administration’s Iran briefing.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did an interview with Laura Ingraham in order to attempt to do damage control but only made it worse. Pompeo said, in the very same breath, that there was an imminent threat but that he didn’t know precisely “when” or “where” it would be. Not only did this contradict President Trump, who was claiming it would be multiple embassies, it also contradicted the very meaning of the word imminent. You need to know “when” in order for an attack to be imminent.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper didn’t help the cause when he went on Sunday network news shows. Esper stated that he has not seen any intelligence that there was an imminent threat against 4 US embassies, but he takes President Trump at his word.

This is important. The Trump Administration has proven, time and time again, that their pathological compulsion for dishonesty will not cease even when it comes to matters of life and death. Americans learned the hard way with the Iraq War the costs of conflict based on lies.

This week also further showcased the deadly chain of events that can be caused by a single action. There was a stampede at Soleimani’s funeral which killed over 50 people. While Iran was on high alert in the aftermath of striking Iraqi bases with US troops, they accidentally shot down a flight headed to Ukraine, killing all 176 passengers on board. While many on social media were blaming Trump for the plane deaths directly, that is of course not the case. But it fair to say that if President Trump did not kill Soleimani, the stampede might not have occurred and the plane might not have been shot down.

These are the costs of senseless conflicts. Innocent lives.

Let’s dive into yet another Unpresidented week as look forward to the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

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Bolton Says He’s Willing To Testify

Day 1,082: Monday, January 6

John R. Bolton speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland – February 24, 2017. (Gage Skidmore)

John R. Bolton speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland – February 24, 2017. (Gage Skidmore)

Monday’s top stories:

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Iran Strikes Back

Day 1,083: Tuesday, January 7

Tuesday’s top stories:

Debunking President Trump’s Lies About Iran

Day 1,084: Wednesday, January 8

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House advisors and senior military personnel, delivers remarks during a national televised address Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, from the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House advisors and senior military personnel, delivers remarks during a national televised address Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, from the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In his press conference about Iran’s missile attacks, President Trump repeated some of his favorite lies about Iran. Trump bashed the Iran Nuclear Deal, claimed that Iranian hostilities increased after the deal was signed, and alleged that President Obama gave $150 billion in cash to Iran. We also still haven’t seen any evidence of the alleged “imminent attack” Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was planning. Given the reaction from some Senate Republicans to the Trump Administration’s Iran briefing today, there likely isn’t any.

But before we thoroughly debunk all of these lies, here’s some background on the whirlwind developments that got us here.

What Happened With Iran Over The Past Few Weeks?

Last week, President Trump made the reckless decision to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the 2nd most powerful figure in Iran. This came after a series of events. First, a US contractor was killed in a rocket attack on Kirkuk Province base on December 27. The US responded with airstrikes targeting weapons depots in Iraq and Syria, resulting in the deaths of 25 militia fighters. This triggered the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which Trump responded to by killing Soleimani.

This week, Iran retaliated, striking bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq with ballistic missiles. There were no casualties and Iran signaled that this could be the end of their immediate retaliatory measures if the United States did not take additional military action. Presented with this de-escalation off-ramp from Iran, President Trump gave an address today signaling that the Trump Administration would apply additional economic sanctions on Iran, not take any additional military action at this time, and seek a new nuclear deal. The world breathed a sigh of relief. That being said, this is far from a “win” for Trump as it has been portrayed.

None of this would’ve happened if President Trump didn’t leave the Iran Nuclear Deal in the first place. President Trump continued one of his favorite tactics: manufacturing a crisis, putting a half-baked band-aid on the crisis, telling people to accept the worse situation as the new normal, and subsequently claiming victory to get “this is a win for Trump” coverage.

So what happened to that evidence of the “imminent attack” that the Trump administration promised? Was bringing us to the brink of war even worth it in the first place?

There Is No Evidence Soleimani Was Planning An “Imminent Attack”

While the Trump Administration is claiming there was the threat of an imminent attack within “days,” that intelligence is reportedly “razor-thin.” In fact, The New York Times reported on communications that indicated the contrary:

But some officials voiced private skepticism about the rationale for a strike on General Suleimani, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops over the years. According to one United States official, the new intelligence indicated “a normal Monday in the Middle East” — Dec. 30 — and General Suleimani’s travels amounted to “business as usual.”

That official described the intelligence as thin and said that General Suleimani’s attack was not imminent because of communications the United States had between Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and General Suleimani showing that the ayatollah had not yet approved any plans by the general for an attack. The ayatollah, according to the communications, had asked General Suleimani to come to Tehran for further discussions at least a week before his death.

The multiple reports of thin intelligence didn’t stop President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper from lying to the American people about it. No one has presented any evidence of the imminent threat while at the same asserting there was one. Today, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were briefed by members of the Trump Administration and they felt there was no substantive evidence of an imminent threat. Even Republican Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) wasn’t convinced. Senator Lee angrily left the briefing and did not mince words when telling reporters about it:

This assassination was widely panned as disproportionate and the most provocative move in the region in years. President Trump also did not notify Congress before taking this action. Yes, Soleimani had American blood on his hands but the justification for his assassination appears to be false. And was it worth it? Before the Soleimani assassination, Iran was grappling with months of inner turmoil and protests. Now they are united in nationalism and one of Soleimani’s goals of America being pushed out of Iraq might become a reality.

When framing Iran’s escalations and this assassination, let’s be clear: this was all set in motion when Trump left the Iran Nuclear Deal, which Iran was complying with. This brings us to our next lie to debunk.

The JCPOA Was A Not A “Bad Deal”

President Barack Obama during a U.S. counterterrorism strategy speech at MacDill Air Force Base Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

President Barack Obama during a U.S. counterterrorism strategy speech at MacDill Air Force Base Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Under the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or Iran Nuclear Deal), Iran received relief from economic sanctions in exchange for reducing their nuclear material and uranium enrichment. Before this deal, Iran had a growing nuclear program.

Rantt Foreign Policy Editor Jossif Ezekilov thoroughly explained the importance of the deal in his article on Trump’s violation of it:

Generally speaking, the agreement reduces Iran’s nuclear material and suspends its potential for uranium production and enrichment. In return, they are granted sanctions relief from the West. Since the inception of the deal, Iran reduced its stockpile of uranium by 95 percent, dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges used for enrichment, and rendered inoperable the planned Arak reactor that was to be used for plutonium mining.

The entire process is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Under JCPOA, the IAEA oversaw the destruction of nuclear material and rendered the planned Arak site inoperable. They also monitor live video streams of Iran’s two remaining nuclear facilities, safeguard all dismantled centrifuges, and analyze samples from Iran, all in an effort to ensure the country does not backtrack. Taken together, such measures represent the toughest nuclear monitoring regime ever imposed on any country.

When President Trump came into office in 2017, he criticized the deal and alleged violations on the part of Iran, even as his own administration’s officials, like then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, said none existed.

President Trump withdrew from the deal in May of 2018 – one month after John Bolton took H.R. McMaster’s position as National Security Adviser. It’s more accurate to say the Trump administration violated the JCPOA, because Iran was complying with the deal and it was overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – who validated Iran’s compliance 9 separate times. In the immediate aftermath, Iran did not choose to violate the terms of the JCPOA and worked with the European signatories (UK, France, and Germany) to continue to receive the deal’s benefits even without America’s participation.

In response, President Trump threatened to sanction America’s own allies if they did business with Iran – mainly by purchasing Iranian oil which is the bedrock of their economy. Those moves crippled Iran’s economy thoroughly, causing them to lash out militarily in the region, triggering what we’ve seen since.

Iran’s Hostilities Increased After Trump Left The JCPOA

President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton (AP, Gage Skidmore)

President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton (AP, Gage Skidmore)

In his press conference today, President Trump said Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed. That is a complete lie. There were no rocket attacks on U.S. bases in the region or any of the escalations we’ve seen since President Trump’s withdrawal. The hostilities substantially increased after Trump tore up the JCPOA no good reason, other than to pursue John Bolton’s goal of regime change in Iran.

President Trump then began applying crippling economic sanctions which triggered Iran’s escalations in the region. In April of 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US would designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard, an Iranian military branch, as a terrorist organization. In early May, Iran said that it would begin to withdraw from some components of the JCPOA, by enriching small amounts of uranium. On May 5th, the US sent an aircraft carrier to the region, warning of potential attacks from Iran.

On May 15th, the US cited intelligence indicating that there was an impending threat from Iran and ordered an evacuation of the US embassy in Iraq. It’s important to note that US allies at the time said they saw no impending threat. Even Republican members of Congress like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had expressed anger at how they were being left in the dark on the intelligence. Over the Summer of 2019, Iran attacked two Saudi oil tankers and shot down a US drone.

Flash forward to December and you have the provocations we discussed at the beginning of this article. None of this happened while the U.S. was still honoring their end of the JCPOA. Let’s move on to another lie, shall we?

Obama Did Not Give Iran $150 Billion – It Was Their Money

At today’s press conference, President Trump repeated one of his most repeated lies about Iran and Obama. Trump said that the weapons used in this week’s strikes on U.S. assets were purchased with the $150 billion Obama gave to Iran. This has been repeated by the highest levels of the conservative ecosystem, with some even calling it a bribe.

This has been fact-checked again and again. The $150 billion was actually unfrozen assets that already belonged to Iran. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of the Associated Press:

When Iran signed the multinational deal to restrain its nuclear development in return for being freed from sanctions, it regained access to its own assets, which had been frozen abroad. Iran was allowed to get its money back. The deal actually was signed in 2015, after a 2013 preliminary agreement. Trump has taken the U.S. out of it.

The $1.8 billion is a separate matter. A payout of roughly that amount did come from the U.S. treasury. It was to pay an old IOU.

The Rantt Rundown

The main takeaway from all this is whether or not we can trust the word of this administration when it comes to matters of war. Given the fact we can’t trust their word on virtually any other matter, the answer is no. They’ve made over 15,000 false or misleading statements according to The Washington Post. In a nutshell, the abandonment of the Iran Nuclear Deal and assassination of Soleimani leaves us in a more dangerous world. Iran can enrich uranium with impunity and they can continue their provocative actions in the region without a diplomatic check, all because of the decisions of one man.

In other news…

House Passes War Powers Resolution

Day 1,085: Thursday, January 9

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (AP)

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (AP)

Thursday’s top stories:

Hillary Clinton Deserves An Apology

Day 1,086: Friday, January 10

Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media — Nov. 7, 2016 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media — Nov. 7, 2016 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Since the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump and his supporters have rallied behind the “lock her up!” chant. False charges of corruption have plagued Hillary Clinton for decades, in spite of the fact multiple federal investigations have exonerated her. Nevertheless, President Trump tried to keep his campaign promise. In his first year in office, Trump tweeted:

The very same month that tweet was sent, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions tasked US Attorney John Huber with probing claims of corruption against the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One conspiracy theory. We now know they found nothing. This week, multiple reports indicated that this DOJ investigation into the Clinton Foundation was quietly shut down after they found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the Trump Foundation has been shut down and fined for illegally self-dealing and misusing charitable funds.

The news of this Clinton probe ending comes after a State Department investigation into Clinton and her aides’ use of a private email server ended without finding criminal wrongdoing in October 2019. Former FBI Director James Comey’s investigation into Clinton’s private email server also ended without criminal wrongdoing being found in 2016. It’s also important to note that the Benghazi investigation into Clinton found no wrongdoing on her part. Also, Hillary Clinton was subpoenaed in the Whitewater investigation that consumed Bill Clinton’s presidency. It found no criminal wrongdoing on her part and ended with the discovery of Bill Clinton’s affair.

After what Clinton endured from media in 2016, and throughout this presidency with Trump’s false accusations, it’s only ethical that the story of her exoneration be given as prominent coverage as her defamation. The reputational damage that Clinton has endured now appears irreparable until her career is seen through the objective lens of history. While President Trump and right-wing media’s role in these smears is widely known, let’s look back at the coverage in the 2016 election that helped build this false image of Clinton corruption.

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How The Media Helped Trump Cover Clinton With A Veil Of Corruption

Supporters of Donald Trump, one holding a sign that reads, “LOCK HER UP,” cheer during a campaign rally in Leesburg, Va – Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Supporters of Donald Trump, one holding a sign that reads, “LOCK HER UP,” cheer during a campaign rally in Leesburg, Va – Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

During the 2016 election, the vast majority of the mainstream media covered Hillary Clinton like they were vetting the next President of the United States. On the other hand, they treated Donald Trump like the kid in the classroom who gets an A for effort. The American people were so distracted by emails/Russian propaganda and Clinton Foundation non-stories that they missed Trump’s conflicts of interest, his history of criminal fraud, the very real Trump Foundation “self-dealing” scandal, and the biggest story of all: Russia’s interference.

Rather than focus fire on a person who was demonstrating he was unfit for office, far too much of the media was consumed by negative stories about Hillary Clinton’s scandals. A 2017 Harvard study found during the 2016 election, the Clinton email scandal dominated news coverage. As we know now, some of this coverage was fueled by the emails released by Wikileaks, obtained from Russia’s hacking of the DNC.

Since the beginning of the General Election, many in the media were well aware of the fact Russia was behind the hacks and that the emails released by Wikileaks were sourced from these cyberattacks. This didn’t stop their obsessive coverage of every single leak, becoming distribution networks for Russian propaganda. Also, much of this email coverage was in reference to her use of a private email server. The Trump Administration’s wide use of private emails and messaging apps has not garnered as much scandalous media attention as Candidate Clinton’s did.

And while the focus was on Clinton, the mainstream media missed massive scandals like the Trump Foundation’s self-dealing. If you were anywhere near a TV screen or smartphone during the election, chances are you heard about the Clinton Foundation. And if you read or watched a report on the organization, you may have walked away thinking the foundation is more like the Illuminati than a charity. But you most likely didn’t hear much ado about Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold’s phenomenal reporting revealing the Trump Foundation’s “self-dealing” because the story was released on September 10, 2016. This was the day before September 11th, or in other words, the weekend Hillary Clinton had pneumonia.

What followed was some of the worst examples of click-bait journalism and ratings hungry broadcasting I have ever seen. Story after story was published about “Hillary’s Health,” and if you watched cable news that week, you would’ve had no idea that there was a Trump Foundation scandal at all.

After the election, the Trump Foundation admitted to the IRS that they were indeed, “self-dealing.” It turns out, Trump was guilty of what the media was trying to accuse Clinton of — and one of their colleagues had already uncovered it. But Clinton’s pneumonia was more important to them.

And, of course, we have the coverage of Comey’s letter to Congress about new emails he found days before the election. While Comey sent a subsequent letter claiming he found nothing, the damage to her election chances was done.

When we interviewed 1,500 Clinton voters in 2017, they felt the media wasn’t fair to their candidate. The media’s chase for ratings, obsession with being first, false equivalency, and misogynistic double standard plagued coverage in 2016. It’s important to rehash this now because we cannot afford to have this same malpractice play out in the 2020 election.

In other news…

Unpresidented // Donald Trump / Impeachment / Iran / War