As the House prepares to vote on a resolution today that would limit the president's ability to engage with Iran under the 1973 War Powers Act, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said there was "plenty of precedence" to support President Trump's authorization of a drone strike on January 3 that killed top Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
On Wednesday, Grassley's Republican colleagues Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted the president's long-awaited and delayed briefing on the killing.
"Don't get hung up on whether or not we had a proper briefing, which I think we did have a very proper briefing," Grassley told Cheddar Thursday. "Don't get that mixed up with the legality of what happened."
Lee called the briefing, which came five days after the airstrike was carried out, "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." He said senators were told they could not dissent or debate, lest division within the government sends a signal of weakness to the Iranians.
He said briefers were asked repeatedly, "What, if anything, would trigger the need for the administration to come back to Congress" for a declaration of war or authorization of military force, to which one of the briefers indicated, essentially, "I'm sure we could think of something."
Grassley said when President Barack Obama had ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden, senators were also not told of the plan prior to the move, though bin Laden was considered an enemy combatant whereas Soleimani was a member of a state government. The Trump administration has said it ordered the strike because Soleimani was "actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region," but has continued to refrain from explaining the intelligence, despite repeated criticism from lawmakers.
In a press conference Thursday, the president focused on Soleimani's violent history, calling him a "monster" who was the "big roadside bomb guy," though Soleimani was a top official in Iran. Other targeted killings carried out by the United States, like that of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019, have struck at extremist leaders without state affiliations.
Many lawmakers argue the president needed Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) from Congress before the strike. On Thursday, Trump seemed to offer some additional information, saying "We did this because they were looking to blow up our embassy. We also did it for reasons that were very obvious." President Trump also said he had just approved new sanctions with details forthcoming.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the dispute over AUMF and the strike against Soleimani during her regular weekly press conference on Thursday.
"The argument would be made that, putting the shoe on the other foot, if the United States had a high-level, maybe second most important person in the country, assassinated, wherever, the U.S. might consider that an assault on our country and the Iranians might as well, even though this took place at the Iraqi airport," she said. "It's foggy."