President Trump on Friday endorsed a tweet comparing the top Senate Democrat to Iran, the United States’ longtime adversary, suggesting neither could be trusted, as Democratic leaders criticized the White House for ordering a military strike to kill a powerful Iranian commander without congressional input.
Amid a flurry of reactions from U.S. lawmakers, Trump retweeted conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who, in response to a headline about Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) not receiving advance notice of the military operation, wrote: “Neither were the Iranians, and for pretty much the same reason.”
Trump made similar insinuations about Democrats’ trustworthiness after the October raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. At that time, Trump said he didn’t tell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a former member of the Intelligence Committee, because “he wanted to make sure this kept secret.”
Trump ordered the U.S. drone strike that killed Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, whom the United States regarded as a war criminal responsible for hundreds of American deaths.
Republicans and Democrats were united in calling Soleimani an enemy of the United States and a terrorist.
‘This morning, Iran’s master terrorist is dead,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in remarks on the Senate floor. “The architect and chief engineer for the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism has been removed from the battlefield at the hand of the United States military.”
Schumer called Soleimani a “notorious terrorist,” and added: “No one should shed a tear over his death.”
But as Republicans celebrated what they described as Trump’s decisive action, Democrats criticized the president’s order to act unilaterally while expressing grave concern that this action would move the United States closer to an intractable war with Iran.
“No matter how good it may feel that Qasem Soleimani is no longer alive, he likely will end up being more dangerous to the United States, our troops and our allies, as a martyr than as a living, breathing military adversary,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
Trump, in brief remarks Friday afternoon about the attack, said he targeted Soleimani to “stop a war,” not to start one.
Presidents typically inform the so-called Gang of Eight — the House speaker and minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking minority-party members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — about high-level military operations.
Top Democratic leaders in Congress received no advance notification of the strike, aides said. Pelosi spoke to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper after the attack for about 13 minutes, said an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
“I’m a member of the Gang of Eight, which is typically briefed in advance of operations of this level of significance. We were not,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor, adding that the administration must be “asked probing questions not from your inner and often insulated circle, but from others, particularly Congress, which forces an administration before it acts to answer very serious questions.”
It was unclear which congressional leaders were given advance notice of the strike.