Democrats Leave Soleimani Strike Briefing Unconvinced That It Was Justified

UNITED STATES - JULY 17: Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., talks with reporters after a meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 17: Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., talks with reporters after a meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
January 8, 2020 4:31 p.m.

A closed-door briefing with national security officials Wednesday afternoon did nothing to convince House Democrats that the strike that killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani last week was justified.

The Wednesday afternoon briefing was held just hours after Trump announced new “punishing” sanctions on Iran in response to its retaliatory missile strike. Trump also said Iran “appears to be standing down.”

Several House Democrats seemed unified after leaving the briefing, saying that the administration failed to make a convincing case for the Trump administration’s talking point of the President authorizing the Soleimani strike to prevent an “imminent” attack against the U.S.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) called the briefing “sophomoric and utterly unconvincing.”

“Without commenting on content, my reaction to this briefing was it was sophomoric and utterly unconvincing,” Connelly told reporters. “And I believe more than ever that Congress needs to act to protect the constitutional provisions about war and peace.”

When asked about his reaction to the rationale for the strike on Soleimani and also the idea of whether there were imminent threats like the Trump administration has argued, Connelly said that he believes “there was no rationale that could pass a graduate school thesis test” and that he was “utterly unpersuaded” regarding any compelling evidence justifying an imminent threat.

I was — well, utterly unpersuaded — about any evidence about the imminence of a threat that was new or compelling,” Connolly said, adding that the “sophomoric” legal rationale shared in the briefing was centered around Article II of the Constitution and the 2002 AUMF authorization for the use of military force which “had nothing to do with Iran.”

Watch Connolly’s remarks below:

Connolly wasn’t alone in being underwhelmed by the national security briefing.

According to the Washington Post, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH) said she wasn’t sure that the officials themselves even understood the justification for why Trump authorized the Soleimani strike.

“I don’t know that they know the rationale,” Fudge said, according to the Post. “Certainly they didn’t tell me what it was. … The explanation did not in any way show that it was imminent. They did not convince me that it was something that should have been done.”

The Post also reported that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, echoed Fudge’s reaction and described the briefing as having “multiple moments of grumbling in the room.”

“I didn’t hear any justification that differed from any activity that Soleimani has conducted over the last 15 years at various points,” Moulton said, according to the Post.

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