EXCLUSIVE: Trump: I do not need congressional approval to strike Iran

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE told Hill.TV in an exclusive interview Monday that he does not need congressional approval to strike Iran.

When asked if he believes he has the authority to initiate military action against Iran without first going to Congress, Trump said, "I do."

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"But we’ve been keeping Congress abreast of what we’re doing ... and I think it’s something they appreciate," he said in an exclusive interview outside the Oval Office. "I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it legally."

"We were pretty close to maybe making a decision to strike. Then I decided not to do it. Nobody went out, by the way. I was going to make that decision by a certain time, and I decided not to do it because it wasn’t really proportional," Trump added.

The president disputed Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter Oversight Committee room to be dedicated to late Rep. Elijah Cummings Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response MORE’s (D-Calif.) assertion that he would need congressional approval for any “hostilities” against Iran.

"I disagree," he said. "Most people seem to disagree."

"They have ideas. They’re intelligent people. They'll come up with some thoughts," Trump said, referring to lawmakers. "I actually learned a couple of things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress."

Pelosi made her statement Friday after Trump ordered and then reversed a decision to strike Iran following the downing of an unmanned and unarmed U.S. surveillance drone last week. She told reporters she was not notified by officials of the president's decision on Thursday to approve the military action when she and other congressional leaders went to the White House for a briefing that day.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (D-N.Y.) said Democrats told Trump during Thursday’s Situation Room briefing that he would need congressional authorization before a strike.

Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (D-Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Now is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution Buttigieg expands on climate plan with new proposals MORE (D-N.M.) have offered an amendment to a defense spending bill that would block Trump from using government funds to strike Iran without congressional approval. Schumer called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democrats block two Senate abortion bills VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing MORE (R-Ky.) to delay a vote on the bill until after this week's Democratic presidential primary debate so that senators seeking the party's nomination can be present to vote on the amendment.