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Graham: Trump officials not adequately briefing on Iran threat

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham reports 'record-breaking' 9M haul during 2020 campaign Lawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country MORE (R-S.C.) says he and other lawmakers haven’t been adequately briefed by the Trump administration about the growing threat posed by Iran amid growing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Graham, the chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and a top ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE's, said senators have been largely kept in the dark as the U.S. sends an aircraft carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East.

“No, I feel we haven’t been well informed and I’m writing a letter with Sen. Leahy today to try to get a briefing,” Graham said Wednesday afternoon, referring to Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Incoming Congress looks more like America MORE (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee.

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“I don’t think it’s fair for us to walk around wondering,” he said, reflecting broader concerns among Senate GOP colleagues about the fast-moving events in the Middle East.

Asked about the threat posed by Iran and a report by The New York Times that acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanProgressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper House Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis MORE has drawn up a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, Graham said, “I don’t know.”

“I just know what I read. The president has said it wasn’t true,” he said, pointing to Trump's comments the previous day disputing the report.

But Graham said he’s concerned by the State Department’s decision to partially evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in response to intelligence of possible Iranian-backed threats.

“We’re clearly moving people,” he said. “This is a big deal.”

“We had people there during the height of the war,” Graham said of the embassy in Iraq. “I was there a bunch of time getting rocketed. If we could stay in operation then [during the height of the Iraq War] it must be some kind of real threat.”

Other Republican colleagues share Graham’s concerns.

“There should be more briefings. I think we should have that sooner rather later. I’ve talked to the administration about that,” said Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerMark Kelly to be sworn in as senator on Wednesday Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (R-Colo.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senators say they expect the administration to brief them next week, but some worry that could be too late.

“My understanding is there will be [a briefing] by early next week but I don’t know where we’re going to be by early next week. I hope I’m wrong, we could be full blown into this thing. It’s a much more urgent situation than I think is being reflected. I’m surprised there isn’t more talk about it,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Trump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs Rubio and Ocasio-Cortez spar on Twitter: 'Work more, tweet less' MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJim Elroy RischWill Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Idaho) said he received a briefing from administration officials on Iran but that many of his colleagues are still in the dark.