President Trump does not have the authority to launch a war on Iran, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Friday, after chastising the commander in chief for failing to consult congressional leaders on his assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Trump ordered a drone attack on the Iranian military commander in Iraq Thursday, and later tweeted "General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught!"
Although Soleimani found no defenders or mourners on Capitol Hill, reaction from lawmakers was largely partisan. Republicans mostly praised Trump for taking out the head of the infamous Iranian Quds Force.
Democrats like Schumer questioned the reasoning behind it, whether it was legal, whether it would make the situation in the Middle East worse, and whether it would spark a war.
"No one should shed a tear over his death," Schumer said in remarks to open the new session of Congress.
He argued, though, that Congress should have been told so that hard questions could be asked, but that Trump had gone ahead "without specific authorization and any advance notification or consultation with Congress."
"It is paramount for administrations to get an outside view to prevent group think and rash action, to 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," Schumer said. "I fear that those very serious questions have not been answered and may not be fully considered."
More liberal Democrats leveled harsher criticism, predicting the strike would backfire.
"]Soleimani] 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," Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) said. "There will be reprisals, and Iran will likely target American troops and even our own political and military leaders. This is why the United States does not assassinate leaders of foreign nations -- in the end such action risks getting more, not less, Americans killed."
Other's suggested Trump may have started the country down the path to a military conflict.
"He is on the brink of starting a wholly avoidable and unnecessary war with Iran," said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). “Our nation must avoid another endless war in 2020 and the potential senseless loss of millions of lives."
Some Republicans have raised concerns about the increasingly unchecked power of the executive to wage war. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called on Congress to overcome its "cowardice" and reclaim its war powers from the White House as recently as mid-December.
Lee praised Trump's strike Friday, raising no objections to the unilateral action. He did suggest he has questions. "As always, I am anxious to learn about the legal and moral justification for this action, and look forward to being briefed by the Pentagon and the White House," Lee tweeted.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another advocate for reining in the White House, also did not condemn the strike, but was more pointed in his questions about it.
"If we are to go to war w/ Iran the Constitution dictates that we declare war," Paul tweeted. "A war without a Congressional declaration is a recipe for feckless intermittent eruptions of violence w/ no clear mission for our soldiers."
Trump, speaking later, insisted he was not sparking a military conflict.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war," he said, speaking in Florida.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said he left a briefing with officials from the administration in the afternoon feeling concerned that there was no overall strategy or plan around the killing.
"If there is some broad strategy at work, the administration has yet to articulate it," Schiff said in a statement. "More ominously, it has yet to show that ‘maximum pressure’ is doing anything but prompting more dangerous and deadly responses from Iran and increasing the likelihood of full-fledged war."