Published: January 11, 2020
WASHINGTON – Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, was criticized on Twitter after claiming that former President Barack Obama killed Muammar al-Gaddafi, the former prime minister of Libya.
Gidley, the principal deputy press secretary, was trying to compare the Obama administration using the threats of imminent attacks as justifications for killing terrorists to Trump and his administration claiming that is what led to the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the country's second-most-powerful official.
Trump administration officials have defended the strike as legal and necessary, saying Soleimani was planning attacks on U.S. assets in the region. But they have declined to provide evidence of the plot and have given conflicting accounts of how "imminent" it was.
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On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that "we don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real."
During Friday's sanctions news conference at the White House, Pompeo was asked for his definition of “imminent," and responded: “This was gonna happen, and American lives were at risk.”
In an interview expected to air Friday evening, Trump told Fox News that Soleimani was planning an attack against four U.S. embassies, including the embassy in Baghdad, but did not provide evidence of such claim.
Gidley also argued Obama did not offer evidence of an imminent threat posed by Osama bin Laden, founder of al Qaeda, when he authorized the operation that killed him in 2011.
"Soleimani was, in fact, planning 'imminent attacks,'" Gidley wrote on Twitter Friday afternoon. "While Democrats and the media quibble over its definition, quick point: When Obama killed bin Laden, al-Awlaki and Gaddafi, without Congressional approval, there were NO 'imminent attacks' and Democrats did not ask or care."
Obama's former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor quickly replied to Gidley, writing that bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda terrorist, "were senior, operational Al Qaeda leaders. Congress authorized war against [Al Qaeda] back in 2001."
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Moreover, Gaddafi was killed by Libyan rebel forces in 2011. His final moments were captured on video, showing him to be surrounded by a mob of rebels.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. played mostly a supporting role in NATO military operations regarding Libya, but the White House did not have a direct role in his death.
Vietor pointed this out Gidley, saying that Gaddafi "was killed by members of the [Libya's National Transitional Council] - not by US forces."
Several Democratic lawmakers also quickly criticized Gidley on twitter.
"Like, just do a google search, man. Obama didn't kill Gaddafi. Libyans did," Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy tweeted back.
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"Hey 'fact checkers,' don't be ridiculous. What I was clearly saying is that Obama and Hillary took credit for the killing of these terrorists repeatedly, including Gaddafi. Hillary even said: "We came. We saw. He died," Gidley stated in a thread after he received criticism.
"Emails (the ones Hillary didn’t delete) showed her advisers urged her to own it. Obama’s authorization of a bombing campaign and his Administration’s assistance in the overthrow of the Libyan government led to Gaddafi’s death," he continued.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution Thursday aimed at curbing Trump's ability to wage war against Iran amid concerns about the escalation of tensions following the U.S. killing Soleimani, a top Iranian general.
Democrats and some Republicans in both the House and Senate have criticized the Trump Administration's lack of evidence and inconsistency regarding the imminent threats posed by Soleimani.
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"Let's be clear - if there was evidence of imminent attacks on four embassies, the Administration would have said so at our Wednesday briefing. They didn't," Murphy also tweeted. Several other members of Congress briefed Wednesday on the attack say this is the first time they've heard of it, as well.
GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah emerged from the classified briefing with White House administration officials about the airstrike calling it "insulting and demeaning."
Contributing: David Jackson, Deirdre Shesgreen, and Tom Vanden Brook source