Democrats Move to Constrain Trump From Pushing War With Iran

WASHINGTON (CN) – The day of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani’s assassination, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine called on the legislative branch to affirm that it alone has the power to declare war. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi followed suit late Sunday with a plan to introduce similar resolution.

“Last week, the Trump administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to fellow Democrats. “This action endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.”

Activists gather near Chicago’s Trump Tower to protest recent U.S. military actions in Iraq on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. A top Iranian general and Iraqi militiamen were killed in a U.S. airstrike that sharply escalated tensions across the region. (Abel Uribe//Chicago Tribune via AP)

The fallout of the drone strike that killed Soleimani and nine other passengers of his convoy near Baghdad International Airport escalated quickly over the weekend. On Sunday, Iraq’s Parliament voted to expel U.S. troops, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared that all U.S. bases, warships and troops throughout the region would be fair targets in retaliation.

“As members of Congress, our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe,” Pelosi wrote. “For this reason, we are concerned that the administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution.”

Pelosi has not disclosed the text of the future resolution or indicated when it may come to a vote, other than to emphasize that it mandates a 30-day withdrawal period absent congressional approval — a rule first established under the original War Powers Resolution of 1973.

Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA and Pentagon analyst specializing in Shia militias, will introduce the resolution for the Democrats after speaking out in a long Twitter thread about how the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate Soleimani contradicted the calculations of his two predecessors.

“What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?” she asked.

The resolution is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled House before having a rougher time in the Republican-dominated Senate, where the text of the legislation already has been released.

“The question of whether United States forces should be engaged in armed conflict against Iran should only be made following a full briefing to Congress and the American public of the issues at stake, a public debate in Congress and a congressional vote as contemplated by the Constitution,” the 5-page resolution states. “The absence of such a deliberative approach is deeply unfair to members of the United States Armed Forces and other Americans whose lives are at risk in event of hostilities between the United States and Iran.”

Kaine’s resolution does carve out an exception for defending the United States from an imminent attack, which was the Pentagon’s justification for the strike on Soleimani.

Subsequent reporting from The New York Times quoted U.S. officials calling the evidence supporting that claim “razor thin.”

“For years, I’ve been deeply concerned about President Trump stumbling into a war with Iran,” Kaine said in a statement. “We’re now at a boiling point, and Congress must step in before Trump puts even more of our troops in harm’s way.”

On Monday morning, Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey released a letter asking Trump to declassify the notification letter that he sent to Congress the day after the drone strike.

“It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner,” the senators wrote. “An entirely classified notification letter is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification.”

White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway accused the senators of chest-thumping.

“They know that Congress will be briefed,” Conway said in a briefing with reporters. “It could start as recently as this week, but that’s up to the Pentagon.”

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