(CBS) — President Trump is marking the launch of his “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition at a Miami church Friday, in his first public remarks since he ordered a deadly strike on Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force and one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic.
The only comment the president had on the strike Thursday night was a tweet of an American flag, although the Defense Department issued a statement claiming American responsibility for the strike, which it said was carried out at the direction of the president. On Friday morning, the president issued a fuller statement on Twitter.
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more … but got caught!” the president tweeted. “He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number … of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
The president’s speech comes as he is making the case he still has a hold on the evangelical vote, after a widely circulated Christianity Today editorial denounced him in December. A day after that editorial ran, the Trump campaign announced the launch of the Evangelicals for Trump coalition in Miami.
The president appeared to take the critique from one of his strongest voting blocs personally, mocking the magazine and retweeting supporters of his who also blasted the publication. Mark Galli, the editor in chief whose name was attached to the editorial, is retiring.
Mr. Trump has been largely holed up at his Mar-a-Lago resort since the Friday before Christmas, making frequent golf outings. While in Florida, the president has been tweeting and retweeting tweets about the impeachment process, which, at this point, is stalled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to send the articles of impeachment passed by the House to the Senate.
“The Witch Hunt is sputtering badly, but still going on (Ukraine Hoax!),” the president tweeted Thursday morning. “If this…had happened to a Presidential candidate, or President, who was a Democrat, everybody involved would long ago be in jail for treason (and more), and it would be considered the CRIME OF THE CENTURY, far bigger and more sinister than Watergate!”
Fundraising for the Trump campaign remained strong through the impeachment process. The campaign raised $46 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The president’s speech is set for 5 p.m. at the El Rey Jesus Church.