President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE told Republican donors Friday evening that Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general who was killed in a drone strike this month, was “saying bad things” about the U.S. before his death.
Trump offered a minute-by-minute recounting of the strike in Baghdad at a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago estate, CNN reported Saturday, citing audio it obtained of his remarks. He told the high-dollar donors that Soleimani’s invectives against America helped lead to his decision to authorize his killing.
"How much of this shit do we have to listen to?" Trump was quoted as saying. "How much are we going to listen to?"
Soleimani, largely considered to have been the second-most powerful man in Iran behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, oversaw Tehran’s international proxy network of armed forces and is believed to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq at the hands of Iran-backed groups.
The Trump administration defended the strike earlier this month, saying the general was in the process of planning an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests.
Trump did not describe such a threat in his remarks to donors, saying only that Soleimani was a "noted terrorist" who "was down on our list" and "was supposed to be in his country" before traveling to Iraq.
Since the strike, the administration has toggled between saying Soleimani posed an imminent threat and pointing to his past malign activities in the Middle East.
Trump’s remarks at the event go further than other comments made publicly by members of the administration about the strike, which brought Washington and Tehran to the brink of war.
Iran retaliated by launching missiles at two Iraqi bases that housed U.S. troops, though no service members were seriously injured or killed and both sides signaled they would deescalate following the response.
Trump appeared to acknowledge the ramifications of the strike, saying it "shook up the world."
"He was supposed to be invincible," Trump said of Soleimani.
Trump has touted the Soleimani strike recently on the campaign trail as well as last year’s operation killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as he seeks to shore up his bona fides as commander in chief heading into the November election.