JANUARY 3, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded an immediate briefing on the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that he was informed about the operation beforehand earlier this week while visiting President Donald Trump in Florida.
“I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,” Graham, who was spotted Monday playing golf with the president in West Palm Beach, told “Fox and Friends” Friday morning.
“I appreciate being brought into the orbit. I really appreciate President Trump letting the world know you cannot kill an American without impunity,” Graham said. “We’ll stand up for our people. And that is an absolutely essential message.”
Pelosi is a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” top congressional leaders who are traditionally informed of classified intelligence and national security matters. But she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were not notified beforehand. An aide to Pelosi told ABC News that Defense Secretary Mark Esper did call her afterward Thursday night.
“The night’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence,” Pelosi said in a statement Thursday night. “America — and the world — cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return. The Administration has conducted tonight’s strikes in Iraq targeting high-level Iranian military officials and killing Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani without an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran. This action was taken without the consultation of the Congress.”
The Trump administration’s choice not to inform top congressional leaders continues a pattern that breaks with practices by previous administrations. At the same time, Graham says he also was told about the U.S. mission targeting ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last October 2019.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif, also a member of the “Gang of Eight,” echoed Pelosi’s point that the strike was not authorized by Congress.
It’s unclear whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was informed of the operation before it was carried out, but he did spend time with Trump this week at Mar-a-Lago and tweeted his support Friday morning.
Graham, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member as well as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — but not a member of the “Gang of Eight” — also reinforced the administration’s claim that Thursday’s attack was of “preemptive, defensive strike.
Reaction from other members of Congress ranged from Republicans praising the assassination to Democrats expressing concern over retaliation.
“Qassem Suleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and his death presents an opportunity for Iraq to determine its own future free from Iranian control,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement posted to Twitter. “As I have previously warned the Iranian government, they should not mistake our reasonable restraint in response to their previous attacks as weakness. The U.S. will always vigorously defend our interests and allies in the face of terrorist conduct and provocations.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, tweeted at least 20 times Friday explaining his support for Trump’s decision.
“Soleimani is directly responsible for previous & future plans to KILL U.S diplomats & American service members in Iraq & throughout the region. But some are so blinded by hatred of Trump that they argue he has done something sinister. Its crazy. Total derangement,” he said on Twitter.
While many Democrats said they agreed Soleimani was an American enemy, they expressed frustration with how the attack was carried out.
“Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also on the Foreign Relations Committee, posted to Twitter. “The question is this — as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”
“Trump Admin owes a full explanation of airstrike reports — all the facts — to Congress & the American people,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Twitter. “The present authorizations for use of military force in no way cover starting a possible new war. This step could bring the most consequential military confrontation in decades. My immediate concern is for our brave Americans serving in harm’s way.”
Iranian officials have warned the U.S. of “vigorous vengeance” and have swiftly moved to appoint a replacement.
Courtesy/Source: ABC News