President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders, Warren exchange underscores Iowa stakes CNN’s Van Jones: Democratic debate was ‘dispiriting,’ no evidence party can defeat Trump MORE on Tuesday touted the results of his decision to approve a strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, making it a key part of his pitch to voters during a Wisconsin campaign rally.
Trump spent a significant portion of his speech in Milwaukee detailing the fallout of the strike, highlighting the reaction of protesters in Iran and hammering Democrats for not fully supporting the military action. The president defended the move by detailing the human toll Soleimani had taken on U.S. troops.
“Many of the young men and women you see walking around without arms or without legs were done by Soleimani,” Trump said. “That’s what he loved. He loved the roadside bomb.”
“Great percentages of people don’t have legs right now and arms because of this son of a bitch,” he added. “And the Democrats should be outraged by Soleimani’s evil crimes, not the decision to end his wretched life.”
The president claimed Democrats would have ridiculed his decision to target Soleimani even in the event the general had carried out plans to target U.S. embassies and bases.
Trump himself has claimed Soleimani was planning to carry out attacks on four U.S. embassies, though administration officials and lawmakers have struggled to explain whether there is evidence for the assertion.
Trump and some Republicans have repeatedly accused Democrats of being sympathetic toward Soleimani following the Jan. 3 strike that killed him in Baghdad. While several Democrats have been critical of the president for failing to notify Congress ahead of the strike or lamented that the operation may destabilize the Middle East, Democratic lawmakers have not defended Soleimani.
Iran responded to Soleimani’s death by firing roughly a dozen missiles at bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops. There were no casualties at the bases, and the two countries last week appeared to step back from the prospect of a prolonged military engagement.
The president’s focus on the Iran strike during Tuesday’s rally reflects a willingness to lean into foreign policy at the outset of an election year. The strike triggered a broader debate in Congress about presidential war powers and drew criticism from Democratic presidential candidates who said it lacked foresight for potential consequences.
But Trump was happy on Tuesday to highlight the immediate fallout. He pivoted to demonstrations unfolding in Iran after a second protester interrupted his own rally.
“Hey, speaking of protesters, have you seen what’s happened in Iran?” Trump said. “The protesters are on our side.”
Demonstrators in Iran have torn down posters of Soleimani and chanted in opposition to officials in Tehran. Trump has highlighted a viral clip of protesters avoiding trampling on an American flag in the street, taking it as a sign of respect for his administration.
“They like us,” Trump said of the protesters. “They like us.”