The evolution of a Trump lie: How we got from 'imminent attack' to 'four embassies' in 9 fact-free steps

The evolution of a Trump lie: How we got from 'imminent attack' to 'four embassies' in 9 fact-free steps
U.S. State Department photo by Ron Przysucha

Sometimes deception generates a “tangled web,” other times just a hilarious mess. But Donald Trump’s war-triggering assassination and post-drone strike rationalizations show two things: one is how clumsily Trump shifts his lies from day to day, the other is how Mike Pompeo and Fox News hurry along in Trump’s wake, trying to paper over irrational statements with a thin veneer of claims that all fall apart on even the most cursory examination.


This isn’t even how a little lie spawned a big one. This lie started big and it stayed that way. The only thing that really grew was how obviously Pompeo and others were willing to throw away any pretense of integrity to make it seem that Trump had a passing grasp on the facts. By week’s end, America got to see how Pompeo’s I-can’t-help-smirking-when-I-lie grin had grown larger than the Joker’s.

1) Donald Trump was not supposed to assassinate Qassem Soleimani. Military planners presented it to Trump as the “far out” option under the silly assumption he would take a more reasoned approach.

2) What those planners weren’t considering wasn’t just Trump’s disdain for reason, but his need to make a big gesture toward Iran to secure the support of Republican senators in his upcoming impeachment trial.

3) So the mission went forward, with a pretense of “improving safety,” even though killing the Iranian general made the situation across the whole Middle East immediately, and obviously less secure.

4) After initially stating that Soleimani was calling back to Tehran for authorization on a plan that threatened hundreds of Americans, Mike Pompeo continually shifted the target and tried to confuse “imminent attack” with retribution for things that were already past.

5) When Congress finally got a chance to be briefed on the so-called intelligence behind the attack, even Republicans were shocked at the inability of the White House to produce anything to support their actions in the “worst briefing ever”.

6) Then, days after the attack and stinging from complaints by Republicans in House and Senate, Trump dropped the idea that Soleimani had been plotting “to blow up the U.S. embassy” into an interview, while providing absolutely no evidence.

7) With that new claim on the board, Pompeo hurried to not only try to support Trump’s claim by giving a long list of possible targets, including “embassies,” but flat-out lied by saying Congress had been told about the embassy threat in the briefing — which was quickly contradicted by those in attendance.

8) Trump expanded on his freshly-generated claim at his rally, telling those in attendance that “Soleimani was … looking very seriously at our embassies, and not just the embassy in Baghdad,” forcing Pompeo to ramp up his lies to match Trump’s latest claims.

9) Trump reaches into his bag of nonsense to come up with the idea that specifically four embassies were under threat by Soleimani.

Your move, Pompeo. And it goes without saying that, at every step along the line, Fox News has been not just cheering on Trump’s latest claim, but out in front, making suggestions that Trump is underplaying the real threat and that only more attacks can bring peace.

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