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

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Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

Photo: Bonnie Cash/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

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Lego, Sesame Workshop back early-learning startup

Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

A number of leading children's brands, including Lego and Sesame Workshop, are among the investors pouring $50 million into BEGiN, the New York startup behind the early-learning program HOMER.

Why it matters: Thus far, HOMER has focused on reading apps, but with the new funding and partnerships, the company says it will expand to a full early-learning program combining digital, physical and in-person experiences, tapping some of its investors for both content and distribution.

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Climate's surprise appearance in the debate

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The debate was a mess as moderator Chris Wallace struggled with President Trump's interruptions. But let's analyze the climate parts anyway without normalizing the whole thing.

Why it matters: The contest provided a collision over the topic between Trump and Joe Biden, and underscored the two candidates' immense differences.