Congressional leaders receive classified Iran briefing

Congressional leaders receive classified Iran briefing
© Aaron Schwartz

Congressional leaders emerged tight-lipped Thursday from a classified briefing on Iran amid concerns about new tensions in the Gulf escalating to war.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Al Green: 'We have the opportunity to punish' Trump with impeachment vote MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters only that she “asked for a classified briefing for all members, but we’ve been asking for that for two weeks.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei MORE (Va.), said that while sensitive information needs to be safeguarded, “more members need to hear the story.”

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But on questions such as whether they were satisfied with the briefing or whether alleged threats from Iran are credible, Pelosi, Warner and the briefing’s other attendees either declined to comment or did not respond to reporters at all.

Thursday’s briefing was given to the so-called Gang of Eight: Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump slams House impeachment vote as 'most ridiculous project' House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants MORE (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJudge finds Stone violated gag order, blocks him from using social media The peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Trump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify MORE (D-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHouse passes annual intelligence bill Democrats' opposition research got exposed — this time, not by the Russians GOP consultant sued by Nunes asks for help paying legal costs MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTop North Carolina newspapers editorial board to GOP: 'Are you OK with a racist president?' Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns GOP senators divided over approach to election security MORE (R-N.C.) and Warner.

The briefing comes amid growing concern that the Trump administration is on a path to war with Iran.

Citing unspecified threats to U.S. personnel from Iran and its proxy forces, the administration has deployed more military assets to the Middle East and ordered the departure of nonemergency personnel from diplomatic missions in Iraq.

Asked Thursday about whether the United States is going to war with Iran, President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeteran, state lawmaker launches bid against Democratic NC governor Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports Dozens of British lawmakers stand behind minority lawmakers amid Trump attacks MORE said “I hope not.”

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank MORE explicitly that he does not want to go to war with Iran.

Lawmakers have been demanding immediate briefings on the intelligence behind those moves and the Trump administration’s further plans.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business MORE (R-Idaho) said Thursday the full Senate is scheduled to be briefed on the issue Tuesday.

A spokesman for Pelosi later confirmed the House will also get an all-members briefing Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier Tuesday, Pelosi warned Trump that only Congress can authorize war with Iran, and that it has not done so.

"The responsibility in the Constitution is for Congress to declare war," she said. "So I hope that the president's advisers recognize they have no authorization to go forward in any way."

Earlier in the week, Trump denied reports that he is preparing to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East, but emphasized he would "absolutely" deploy the service members if he had to.