Amidst increased tensions with Iran, Dems of Congress warns Trump

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Democratic members of the Gang of 8, a group of congressional leaders who receive high-level briefings on intelligence matters, urged President Trump in a March 27 letter to consult with Congress before ordering strikes on Iran or take other measures that could lead to war. Lawmakers cited recent media reports that suggested the administration was preparing for military action.

The president tweeted Wednesday that the United States had received reports of an Iranian-backed “sneak attack” against American forces in Iraq, and warned Tehran of possible reprisals.

“According to reports and beliefs, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on American troops and / or assets in Iraq,” Trump said. “If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed! “

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif later responded to the President’s warning by writing in his own tweet: “Make no mistake about it. [sic] by usual hawkish people … Iran does not start a war, but teaches those who do. “

It was among the busiest rhetorical exchanges since the January 3 strike against the Iranian general Qassim Soleimani, who was killed alongside nine others shortly after arriving at Baghdad International Airport.

Iran’s retaliatory strike on January 8, more than 100 US soldiers were injured, most of whom suffered head injuries. Although the United States has not responded militarily, it has maintained and intensified in recent weeks its campaign of maximum pressure on Tehran, ordering new sanctions even as the Iranian economy was paralyzed by a massive epidemic of COVID-19 . To date, the Tehran Ministry of Health has reported more than 47,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths, although public health officials believe the toll could be much higher.

The letter from Democratic lawmakers, which was obtained by CBS News, warned that the administration had a legal obligation to keep congressional leaders informed of the potential military escalation.

“Although there are well understood and narrow exceptions to self-defense, the US Constitution and law require that you consult Congress before taking military action or actions that may lead to war,” they wrote. . The letter was signed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Leader of the Senate Minority Chuck Schumer, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff and Deputy Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner.

Lawmakers also said the administration has “largely failed” to date in fulfilling these legal obligations, citing the January strike on Soleimani. Trump administration officials have said the strike was conducted to prevent an “imminent” attack on American interests in the region, although this rationale has received bipartisan criticism from lawmakers who have said the briefs The information underlying the attack was not satisfactory. The gang of 8 Democrats said at the time that they were not informed before the strike, although some of the president’s Republican allies, including South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, were.

Questioned during an afternoon Coronavirus Task Force briefing on the potential attack on Iran, Trump said the Iraqi government had been kept informed of the plot and that the US administration had “very good information” about it. He also said that the difficult policies of his administration could force Iran to the negotiating table.

“It was led by Iran – not necessarily Iran, but by Iranian-backed groups. But to me, it’s Iran, ”Trump said of the alleged attack. “And we just say,” Don’t do it. Do not do it. “It would be very bad for them if they did. “

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was also present at Wednesday’s briefing, said that Iran turned down US offers of aid and assistance during the COVID-19 epidemic even then. that he continued to engage in malicious activity in the area. “We sympathize with the Iranian people,” said Esper, ” [T]hey have clearly been hit hard. “

“The important thing is that the Iranian government focus on them and stop this malicious behavior that it has been carrying out for more than 40 years,” he said.

“I happen to think they want to make a deal,” added Trump. “I think they are dying to make a deal. “

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