Last week, missiles shot from American drones killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force. Ordered by President Donald Trump, the assassination was not authorized by Congress, and caught the world by surprise, with critics describing the move as reckless and warning that it could lead to widespread conflict in the region.
Top Trump administration officials have offered differing justifications for the maneuver. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the assassination as a de-escalatory measure meant to bring Iran back to the negotiating table, and Vice President Mike Pence falsely linked Soleimani to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. According to a new report from Mediaite, Trump is now offering an explanation for why Congress was not briefed about the attack.
In an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, the president touched upon a variety of issues related to Iran, dismissing critics, and suggesting that congressional Democrats cannot be trusted with classified information. Congress, Trump suggested, should not be notified about U.S. military plans because lawmakers tend to leak information to the press.
“Are you worried the Democrats can’t be trusted with classified information?” Ingraham asked.
“Certainly I am worried about it,” Trump said, proceeding to mock the idea of coordinating with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, on foreign policy decisions that require congressional approval.
“Number two, they leak. Anything we give will be leaked immediately,” he added.
INGRAHAM: Don't the American people have a right to know what specifically was targeted by Soleimani?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 11, 2020
TRUMP: "I don't think so." pic.twitter.com/Dsi3Ow8Nhs
It is not only Democrats that are critical of Trump’s unorthodox approach to foreign policy. Two Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have expressed their concerns with the president’s aggressive posture toward Iran, with Lee describing the briefing on the strike killing Soleimani as “insulting” and “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.”
“What wasn’t said to mollify the concerns of some of your strongest supporters like Mike Lee?” Ingraham asked Trump. The president responded stating that some members of Congress told him that the briefing was, in fact, the “single best briefing they’ve ever had.”
“One said 20 years the single best military briefing they have ever had,” Trump said, suggesting that Lee — unlike Democrats — can be trusted with classified information. “We could probably say individually to him and he’s certainly a trustworthy person,” Trump said.
Although Trump apparently finds Lee trustworthy, the congressman does not seem to believe a president should have complete authority when it comes to war. The Utah Republican has agreed to support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bill to freeze all funding for military action against Iran without congressional approval.