Slamming Trump’s War-Crime Threat, House Leader Braces for Iran Briefing

WASHINGTON (CN) – Cabinet officials are expected to face pointed questions from Democrats as they appear for a congressional hearing Wednesday afternoon about the justifications for the drone strike that took out Iran’s top general last week.

“Creation of conflict and crisis has been ever present on a daily basis in the consideration of policy and actions by this president and by this administration,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said this morning, talking to reporters some two hours before the Maryland Democrat sits down with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Director of National Intelligence Joseph McGuire and others.

“There was no consultation with the leadership of the House, which is required,” Hoyer added, referring to the drone attack that killed Iranian General Qasem Suleimani and nine others in his convoy near Baghdad International Airport last week.

President Donald Trump walks along the Colonnade of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Hoyer said he wants to know whether Iraq had been notified and the long-term strategy to de-escalate.

“Neither the Bush administration, nor the Obama administration, nor the Netanyahu administration determined that taking Soleimani out would further their security or the establishment of stability in the Middle East and the protection of the United States and our allies,” the House leader noted.

Administration officials have refused to specify the supposedly imminent threat that Pentagon asserted as justification for executive action.

During the impeachment inquiry late last year, House Democrats often cited President Donald Trump’s remark that Article II of the Constitution allows him to do anything he wants as evidence that he views himself as unconstrained by any co-equal branch of government. Hoyer told reporters that Trump’s actions in Iran mirror this mistaken view of his power.

“That is not our Constitution,” Hoyer said. “That is not our law, and it’s not the kind of government that our founders wanted.”

Republicans largely have fallen in line in support of Trump’s killing of Soleimani, not questioning the legal basis and arguing that the chief architect of Iran’s proxy militias across the Middle East made both the region and the United States safer.

Despite that support, Trump alienated much of his near-lockstep support from Republicans this week by repeatedly threatening to destroy Iranian cultural heritage — a war crime under both international and U.S. federal law.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a stalwart Trump loyalist who promised total coordination with the White House during an impeachment trial, flatly criticized the remark at a press conference on Tuesday.  

“That is not appropriate,” the Kentucky Republican flatly told reporters.

Though the secretaries of the State and Defense Departments have distanced themselves from the president’s remarks, Hoyer promised that Democrats would to take “very strong action” if Trump ever followed through on those threats.

“That would be a war crime,” Hoyer intoned. “For the president of the United States of America to glibly and without apparently any consideration of the consequences or the law, make such a statement is undermining of our credibility as a nation, undermining of the respect that we have.”

“Every military person has responded, ‘We will act within the law,’” Hoyer continued, his voice rising with indignation. “The president of the United States ought to say that as well.”

Hoyer’s briefing with military and intelligence officials begins at 1 p.m.


This story is developing…

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