Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions

Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions
© Greg Nash
A bipartisan group of senators called on President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE to explain his decision to deploy troops to the Middle East and warning that Congress hasn't authorized military action against Iran. 
 
Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Missouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Sen. Kaine: No reason for US to 'engage in military action to protect Saudi oil' MORE (D-Va.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeZuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers to discuss 'future internet regulation' Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE (R-Utah) spearheaded the letter, which was also signed by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Missouri man latest to die of vaping-related illness Senators draft bipartisan bill to ban flavored e-cigarettes MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Krystal Ball calls on Sanders to follow Yang's lead on war on drugs Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights GOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Trump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP MORE (D-Conn.), and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOn The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight MORE (R-Ky.), saying they are "concerned' that escalating U.S.-Iran tensions will lead to a military conflict. 
 
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"We remain concerned that increasingly escalatory actions by both sides will lead to an unnecessary conflict. Given that growing risk, we want to reiterate that, as of this date, Congress has not authorized war with Iran and no current statutory authority allows the U.S. to conduct hostilities against the Government of Iran," the senators wrote.
 
They added that they "expect" the Trump administration would come to Congress for a military authorization before they deploy forces "into hostilities or areas where hostilities with Iran are imminent" and stick to "legitimate principles of self-defense" absent congressional authorization.
 
"We request a joint Defense, State and Intelligence Community briefing by the end of June to address these policy and legal issues," the senators write.   
 
The letter to Trump comes after acting Defense Secretary announced on Monday night that the administration will send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes. 
 
U.S.-Iran tensions are running high after Tehran’s nuclear agency announced it will soon exceed the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile unless Europe intervenes, and in the wake of an attack on oil tankers near the strategic chokepoint of the Straight of Hormuz, which the Trump administration blames on Tehran.
 
Senators are getting a new round of briefings from the administration, including a top State Department official meeting with Senate Republicans during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday. 
 
 
The letter to Trump comes as the Senate is expected to start debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) later this week. 
 
Paul, Kaine, Murphy, Merkley and Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinA national interest rate cap would harm consumers in the name of consumers Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (D-Ill.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback MORE (D-N.M.) have filed an amendment to the bill to prevent unauthorized military operations against Iran. Some senators worry that the administration would try to use the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to cover a conflict with Iran. 
 
"No funds may be used to conduct hostilities against the government of Iran, against the armed forces of Iran or in the territory of Iran except pursuant to an act or a joint resolution of Congress specifically authorizing such hostilities," the amendment reads. 
 
With hundreds of amendments filed to the NDAA, it's unclear if it will be able to get a vote.