Top Democrats in the Senate have asked President Donald Trump to declassify the war powers notification that he submitted to Congress after the United States killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq last week.
In a letter submitted on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked Trump to take immediate action to declassify the notification.
“Immediately declassify in full the January 4, 2020 war powers notification you submitted to Congress following the U.S. military operation targeting Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani,” they requested of Trump in their letter.
“It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner,” the two Democrats said. “An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society.”
On Saturday, the White House sent the notification of the drone strike to Congress under the 1973 War Powers Act that requires the president to tell the legislative body of incidents that require the introduction of the military within 48 hours.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded to their letter, saying that Congress could be briefed by the week’s end.
“They know that Congress will be briefed. It could start as recently as this week. But that’s up to the Pentagon,” she told reporters on Monday. “They will be briefed, but they also should calm down and celebrate, not denigrate, the fact that the world’s greatest terrorist, who is single-handedly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans … they should celebrate not denigrate” that Soleimani was killed, she said.
In defense of Trump’s strike, which drew backlash from Democrats in Congress about them not being notified, Conway said that “he’s the commander in chief, and he did what a responsible, strong—not weak—commander in chief does when faced with the opportunity to take out one of the, if not the world’s most wanted terrorist.”
Following the Trump administration’s notification on Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who led the House’s impeachment of the president, said it “raises more questions than it answers.”
“The highly unusual decision to classify this document in its entirety compounds our many concerns, and suggests that the Congress and the American people are being left in the dark about our national security,” she said Saturday, noting that it “prompts serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran.”
President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson disputed the notion that Trump needed to first ask Congress before the strike.
“If you believe everything our government is saying about General Soleimani, he was a lawful military objective and the president, under his Constitutional authority as commander-in-chief, had ample domestic legal authority to take him out without additional Congressional authorization,” Johnson told MSNBC. “Whether he was a terrorist or a general in a military force that was engaged in armed attacks against our people, he was a lawful military objective.”