Trump approved Soleimani's killing last June: report

President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE authorized the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani last summer if an American was killed as the result of increased Iranian aggression, NBC reported Monday, citing five current and former senior administration officials. 

Officials told the network that then-national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Will Pence primary Trump — and win? Bolton: Trump lacked enough 'advance thinking' for a coup MORE urged Trump to retaliate for Iran downing a U.S. drone in June by approving an operation to kill Soleimani. The officials also said that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE backed the decision to kill Soleimani at the time. 

Trump said that he would only take action if Iran killed an American, a person briefed on the discussion told NBC. 

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The report brings into question the Trump administration's justification for killing Soleimani in a drone strike earlier this month after an attack in which a U.S. contractor died. Administration officials have claimed that killing the top Iranian commander was necessary due to an imminent threat of attacks Soleimani was plotting.

Critics of the decision have questioned how imminent the attacks were. Democrats widely condemned the attack, and many members of Congress claimed the intelligence did not support the decision, based on information they were briefed on. 

“There have been a number of options presented to the president over the course of time," a senior administration official told NBC. The official added that it was “some time ago” that presidential aides put killing Soleimani on the list of potential responses to Iranian aggression.  

The idea of killing Soleimani came up in 2017 during conversations then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster was having with administration officials about Trump’s broader national security strategy, officials told NBC. The idea was reportedly one of possible elements of a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and “was not something that was thought of as a first move,” a former senior administration official involved in the discussions said. 

It reportedly became a more serious idea under Bolton, who replaced McMaster in April 2018. 

A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond for comment when contacted by The Hill Monday morning.

--This report was updated at 10:06 a.m.