President Donald Trump and his administration briefed multiple congressional Republicans on the U.S. airstrike that killed a prominent Iranian general late Thursday —but apparently kept Democratic leaders completely in the dark.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., confirmed Friday he had been briefed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on the strike that took out Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian elite Quds Force.
Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell, who’s a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” said the administration is arranging a classified briefing for key Senate staffers on Friday afternoon.
“I recommend that all senators wait to review the facts and hear from the administration before passing much public judgment on this operation,” McConnell said.
Before McConnell’s floor remarks, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he was given a heads-up earlier this week about the possibility of a Soleimani strike —even though he’s not a member of the “Gang of Eight,” which is made up of the top Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and the House, as well as the leaders of each chamber’s intelligence committees.
“I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,” Graham said on Fox News on Friday, referring to his visit at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club. “I appreciate being brought into the orbit.”
But neither Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the lethal strike, according to congressional aides. Both Democrats are part of the “Gang of Eight.”
Schumer said the other Democrats on the “Gang of Eight,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, weren’t briefed either.
“I’m a member of the Gang of Eight, which is typically briefed in advance of operations on this level of significant. We were not,” he said. “The need for advance consultation and transparency with Congress was put in the Constitution for a reason because the lack of advanced consultation and transparency with Congress can lead to hasty and ill-considered decisions … When the security of the nation is at risk, decisions must not be made in a vacuum.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if the other Republican members of the Gang of Eight were briefed, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was at Trump’s Florida resort during the time of the attack.
The death of Soleimani has sparked fears across the globe of war between the U.S. and Iran.
Iran’s leaders have pledged harsh retaliation for the hit on Soleimani, who was a revered military leader in Tehran and spearheaded the country’s various proxy wars across the Middle East.