Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces new sanctions on Iran on Jan. 10. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump authorized killing top Iranian general Qasem Solemani in response to "an escalating series" of Iran-backed attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East in previous months and to deter future Iranian attacks, the White House asserted to Congress on Friday.

Why it matters: The official reason for killing Soleimani contradicts the administration's original claim that Trump authorized the strike to disrupt an "imminent" attack against Americans in the Middle East.

What they're saying: Targeting Soleimani in Iraq was an action of "national self-defense," the White House said in a memo given to lawmakers on Friday. "Iran's past and recent activities, coupled with intelligence at the time of the air strike, indicated that Iran's Qods Force posed a threat to the United States in Iraq."

  • The memo stipulates that the president is constitutionally empowered to use military force against the threat of an imminent attack, but does not detail what imminent attack was posed prior to the lethal strike on Soleimani — a designated terrorist whose activities in the Middle East led to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. service members.
  • The White House had no additional comment on the letter.

Flashback: Pompeo said in January that Soleimani was plotting a "big action" in the Middle East prior to the strike that could have put hundreds of American lives at risk.

Go deeper: How Trump decided to kill Iran's Soleimani

Go deeper

Trump goes golfing for the first time since early March

President Trump heads to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia from the White House in Sept. 2018. Photo: Chris Kleponis - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump traveled to his club in Sterling, Virginia on Saturday for his first golfing trip since early March, when the coronavirus pandemic first began to steamroll across the U.S.

Driving the news: White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx advised at a news briefing on Friday that outdoor activities that allow for social distancing, such as golfing, can safely be enjoyed over Memorial Day weekend.

U.N. warns of growing cyberattacks during global pandemic

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The United Nation's disarmament chief warned the U.N. Security Council on Friday of a rise in cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic, with a 600% jump in malicious emails, AP reports.

Why it matters: Izumi Nakamitsu told the council that the uptick in attacks and vulnerability follows increased global digital dependency. She noted, "There have also been worrying reports of [cyber] attacks against health care organizations and medical research facilities worldwide" and other infrastructure since the virus outbreak.

Trump calls for churches to reopen "right now"

Trump spoke to bikers from the White House balcony earlier Friday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump announced Friday that he was declaring churches and places of worship as "essential places that provide essential services," and said that he would override governors to allow them to open "right now."

What he's saying: "Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It's not right," Trump said from the White House podium.