Administration

Biden administration to give Congress full classified briefing on Syria strikes by next week

The Biden administration briefed congressional leadership before ordering strikes on Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria on Thursday and intends to give lawmakers a full classified briefing by earlier next week, according to the White House.

“The Department of Defense briefed Congressional leadership before the action last night. The Administration has been briefing the Hill at the Member- and staff-level today. There will be a full classified briefing early next week at the latest,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Psaki also told reporters aboard Air Force One that President Biden authorized the strikes to send an “unambiguous message” to Iran that “he’s going to act to protect Americans.”

“The president is sending an unambiguous message that he’s going to act to protect Americans, and when threats are posed, he has the right to take an action at the time, and in the manner of his choosing,” Psaki said. “He also is going to take those actions in a manner that’s deliberative, and that has the objective of de-escalating activity in both Syria and Iraq.”

The U.S. military launched airstrikes on facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in eastern Syria on Thursday evening in retaliation for rocket attacks targeting U.S. personnel and other interests in Iraq earlier this month.

Top Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Friday also confirmed that the Defense Department notified Congressional leadership before the strikes and said administration officials have plans for a full classified briefing planned for early next week. 

In addition, the Pentagon made sure to consult with coalition partners ahead of the move, as well as contact and notify the Russian government just prior to the strike using deconfliction channels currently in place.

Kirby also provided more details on the strike, which was carried out by two  F-15 Strike Eagles that dropped seven precision guided munitions “totally destroying nine facilities and partially destroying two facilities, making them functionally destroyed.”

Preliminary details reveal that there were casualties on-site, but Kirby declined to discuss details citing an ongoing battle damage assessment.

Some Democrats in Congress have criticized the strikes and demanded immediate briefings, raising questions about the administration’s legal authority.

“The American people deserve to hear the Administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement. “Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances. Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”

Psaki said that Biden’s national security team conducted a legal review in advance of the strike, and that the president took action pursuant to his Article II authority. 

Updated at 2:51 p.m.

Tags biden administration Congress Defense Iran Jen Psaki Joe Biden Syria syria strikes Tim Kaine White House

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