Dem rep presses Trump officials on civilian casualties in Yemen

A Democratic congressman is pressing the Trump administration on U.S. involvement in two recent high-profile instances of civilian casualties in Yemen.

Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuVideo of Princess Anne shrugging as Queen greets Trump goes viral Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings MORE (D-Calif.) is sending separate letters Tuesday to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling Russian diplomat says election meddling wasn't discussed at White House, contradicting Trump MORE and acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary MORE about a March airstrike that hit a hospital and an April strike near a school. Combined, the strikes killed about 20 people.

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“Unfortunately, these horrific airstrikes on civilian targets are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a long track record of bombing civilians at markets, weddings, schools, hospitals, funerals and other off-limits sites that have killed over 4,600 civilians since 2015,” Lieu wrote in both letters, obtained by The Hill ahead of their public release.

Lieu’s letters come after Congress passed a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war, sending it to President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE’s desk for his signature.

Trump is expected to veto the resolution, and Congress is not expected to have enough votes to override the veto.

The United States supports the Saudi coalition’s fight against the Houthi rebels with logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales.

Until last November, the U.S. military also provided aerial refueling for coalition jets. But the Trump administration halted that support as congressional pressure to end U.S. involvement in the war grew.

In his letter to Shanahan, Lieu asked whether “refueling assistance resumed since the 2018 announcement.”

Lieu also asked whether either the school or hospital was on the no-strike list the United States provides to the coalition and whether the United States provided targeting assistance for either of the two airstrikes.

Lieu further asked whether the Pentagon believes either strike violated the law of armed conflict. 

In the letter to Pompeo, Lieu pressed him on a statement he made in March at the National Review Institute's 2019 Ideas Summit that the U.S. role in the war has reduced civilian casualties.

“Factually, frankly, the American role there has reduced civilian casualties there inordinately,” Pompeo said at the summit. “I can show you the statistics. Since America’s begun to assist the Saudis in their campaign, the ratio of civilian casualties to effectiveness has decreased dramatically, and that’s important.”

Lieu asked for the specific statistics Pompeo referred to, as well as what specific U.S. assistance resulted in that decreased ratio.

He also asked Pompeo whether the U.S. has asked the coalition for information on either the hospital strike or school strike and whether the administration believes there needs to be an independent investigation into either strike.

Lieu requested both Shanahan and Pompeo respond within 14 days after the letter is sent.

“Any assistance of the United States in aiding and abetting what look like war crimes harms both our moral standing and our national security,” Lieu wrote in both letters. “We are giving terrorists ample material by our support of a coalition that keeps killing children.”