Senate

Schumer: Trump failed to alert top House, Senate leaders on Iran attack

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Friday knocked President Trump over a military strike that killed a senior Iranian military official, saying Trump failed to alert top lawmakers in the House and Senate before the move, which has led to a dramatic escalation in tensions with Tehran.

Schumer said Trump did not alert the Gang of Eight — the top four leaders in Congress and the top four lawmakers on the Senate and House Intelligence committees — ahead of the strike. He said that the nation’s Founding Fathers gave Congress the authority to declare war to force the commander in chief to consult with lawmakers before making hasty military decisions.

“I’m a member of the Gang of Eight, which is typically briefed in advance of operations of this level of significance. We were not,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Schumer emphasized his view that Trump does not have the authority to go to war against Iran and must obtain congressional authorization before taking any broader military action.

“If he plans a large increase in troops and potential hostility over a longer time, the administration will require congressional approval and the approval of the American people,” he warned.

Schumer said the nation’s founders put the requirement for congressional authorization of military actions in the Constitution “because the lack of advanced consultation and transparency with Congress can lead to hasty and ill-considered decisions.”

“The framers of the Constitution gave war powers to the legislature and made the executive the commander in chief for the precise reason of forcing the two branches of government to consult with one another when it came to matters of war and peace,” he said.

The other members of the Gang of Eight include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the chairmen and ranking members of the Intelligence committees in both chambers.

Pelosi said earlier Friday that she did not receive any prior notification of Thursday’s drone strike in Baghdad, which killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s elite Quds Force.

Pelosi called on the administration to brief congressional leaders immediately on what is being seen as a major escalation of hostilities with Iran.

Schumer said the lack of consultation with Congress now raises “very serious questions.”

He said Democrats want to know what legal basis was used for the drone strike and how far that legal rationale extends. The Democratic leader also said that Trump’s unilateral action raises the prospect of Iranian reprisals against U.S. military and diplomatic personnel abroad, as well as allies.

“Iran has many dangerous surrogates in the region and a whole range of possible responses. Which responses do we expect? Which are most likely? Do we have plans to counter all of the possible responses? How effective will our counters be?”

The Democratic leader said Trump’s action further raises questions about the long-term stability of Iraq and the massive U.S. investment of money and human resources in the country.

One prospect is that Iraq’s Parliament will take action to end the U.S. presence in the country.

“How does the administration plan to manage an escalation of hostilities? And how does the administration plan to avoid a larger and potentially endless conflagration in the Middle East?” Schumer said Friday.

Trump’s strike has been met with a wave of criticism from other Democrats as well, who have condemned it as a major escalation and potentially reckless move. Trump himself has defended the decision, saying earlier Friday that Soleimani should have been killed “many years ago.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) plans to introduce a war powers resolution to force debate on military authorization for any further action taken against Iran.

The privileged measure is guaranteed to reach the floor and cannot be blocked by Republicans, although its chances of passage are slim. 

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Gang of Eight Iran strike Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Tim Kaine

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