Trump returns to Washington to face a pair of challenges

Full Screen
1 / 3

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

President Donald Trump speaks during an "Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch" at King Jesus International Ministry, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – His 17-day holiday stay at his Florida resort over, President Donald Trump has returned to the White House facing twin challenges: the fallout from the strike he ordered to kill an Iranian general and his looming impeachment trial in the Senate.

The dueling images — one of potential chaos in the Middle East, the other a politicized ritual occurring for only the third time in the nation’s history — will shape a defining month of Trump’s presidency, one that comes just before the first votes of the 2020 campaign are cast.

Even before Air Force One touched down outside the divided nation’s capital Sunday night, Trump faced growing questions from Democrats fearful that the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani endangered Americans in the region and may have been an effort to distract from the president’s political crisis back home.

“Next week, the president of the United States could be facing an impeachment trial in the Senate. We know he's deeply upset about that. And I think people are reasonably asking, ‘Why this moment?’” Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat running for president, said on CNN's “State of the Union."

“Why does he pick now to take this highly inflammatory, highly dangerous action that moves us closer to war?” the Massachusetts senator said.

In the hours before Trump’s return, tensions simmered half a world away as hundreds of thousands flooded streets Sunday in Iran to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani while Iraq’s parliament voted in favor of a resolution calling for an end of the foreign military presence in their nation, an effort aimed at expelling the 5,000 U.S. troops stationed there over the war against the Islamic State group.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who appeared on the full gamut of Washington Sunday morning news shows, defended the strike, which killed Soleimani at the Baghdad airport, as part of a deterrence “strategy to convince the Iranian regime to behave like a normal nation.”

"The American people should know that we will not waver. We will be bold in protecting American interests and we will do so in a way that is consistent with the rule of law," Pompeo told CNN.