Prior to the strike that targeted Qasem Soleimani, White House administration lawyers in consultation with national security officials put together a "strong rationale" specifically for the strike against the Iranian general that President Trump, as commander in chief, had the authority to not ask for congressional authorization over a matter of self defense, the administration official said.
That legal rationale formed the basis for not going to Congress for authorization beforehand.
"We did not feel the need to ask for authorization over basic rights of self defense," the official said.
A separate administration official says the strike was fully vetted by three different sets of lawyers from the White House, Department of Justice and Department of Defense. All three sets of lawyers deemed the strike was a fully appropriate action and 100% lawful.
Part of the legal reasoning was that Soleimani was deemed an enemy combatant because he was in the process of planning specific attacks in the near future on US and allied personnel and citizens, including military personnel.
"We always have a right to self defense when terrorists are plotting attacks," the official said.
The administration concluded it didn't need congressional sign off from a legal standpoint. The official also pointed out Soleimani had been deemed a foreign terrorist several different times by the US, including two executive orders that date back to 2007.
The administration has not provided any details on justification.