The Trump administration did not inform Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) before its Friday morning strike in Iraq against top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, their aides told HuffPost via email.
Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, and Warner are part of what’s called the “Gang of Eight”: powerful lawmakers whom presidents and their staff traditionally keep updated about a range of sensitive national security issues.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), another member of the group, appeared to suggest that she was not briefed either in a later statement. “This action was taken without the consultation of the Congress,” Pelosi said. “The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation.
The revelation that key legislators did not have this information shows how little oversight President Donald Trump offered on what his administration describes as a deliberate and important national security decision ― even though its consequences are wide-ranging and could be dangerous for U.S. personnel and interests. It’s also important for the long-running debate over how much control Congress has over matters of war and peace, which will likely be the focus of intensive controversy if, as experts predict, Iran responds to Trump’s move with escalations of its own.
The attack on Soleimani, who was one of the most influential figures in one of the most influential governments in the Middle East, is the most important foreign policy news of the new year ― and arguably of the Trump presidency so far.
Just three months ago, the president similarly failed to notify high-ranking Democrats in the “gang” of his intention to assassinate Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Other high-ranking lawmakers with national security experience raised the alarm about being excluded. “To push ahead with an action of this gravity without involving Congress raises serious legal problems and is an affront to Congress’s powers as a coequal branch of government,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement.
There’s already a clear appetite on Capitol Hill to press Trump on how he handled transparency over the decision and whether he accurately judged the benefits of it relative to the potential costs.
“We should prepare for potential retaliatory attacks by Iran and its proxies. We must ensure the security of U.S. personnel in the region. The [administration] must inform Congress of next steps and clarify legal basis for military action,” wrote Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a prominent voice on foreign policy in the House, on Twitter. “Reminder that Congress has not authorized war with Iran.”
This article has been updated to include Warner.