President Donald Trump warned the U.S. has “52 Iranian sites” picked out as targets should Tehran retaliate for the airstrike that killed a top Iranian general, even as the White House sent to Congress a formal, written justification for Thursday’s action.
The documents justifying the strike have been received at the Capitol, said a senior Democratic aide, and are classified. It’s unclear if an unclassified version will be forthcoming as well.
A senior administration official said Trump provided the notification consistent with the War Powers Resolution. The notification informed Congress that the President directed the recent strike that targeted General Qassem Soleimani pursuant to his constitutional authorities and the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…targeted 52 Iranian sites,” Trump said Saturday evening in a series of three Twitter posts. Iran “WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”
….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2020
The comments from Trump while he’s at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, seemed at odds with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who said repeatedly in the past two days that the U.S. “remains committed to de-escalation.” Trump on Friday said the U.S., in targeting Soleimani, “took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday briefed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the strike Thursday night near Baghdad, and a handful of other lawmakers also obtained briefings from the administration.
Democratic leaders were informed of the action after the fact, and Republican leaders declined to say when they were briefed.
Many Democrats were furious that the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate as well as the top lawmakers on the intelligence committees — together known as the “Gang of 8” — weren’t given advance notice. Pelosi expressed her frustration in a statement Saturday that Congress was left “in the dark.”
“The Trump Administration’s provocative, escalatory and disproportionate military engagement continues to put servicemembers, diplomats and citizens of America and our allies in danger,” she said. “This initiation of hostilities was taken without an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iran, without the consultation of the Congress and without the articulation of a clear and legitimate strategy to either the Congress or the public.”
Nancy Pelosi@SpeakerPelosiPresident Trump’s classified War Powers Act notification raises more questions than it answers about the timing, manner and justification of the decision to engage in hostilities against Iran. speaker.gov/newsroom/1420
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The Pentagon said senior officials briefed staff members from the House Armed Service Committee and Senate Armed Service Committee on Friday about recent threats and attacks on U.S. personnel and interests, including the 11 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq since Oct. and attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 27.