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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

16 mins ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.

The perils of organizing underground

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Researchers see one bright spot as far-right extremists turn to private and encrypted online platforms: Friction.

Between the lines: For fringe organizers, those platforms may provide more security than open social networks, but they make it harder to recruit new members.