Democratic Senator Chris Murphy slams Trump for downplaying injuries in Iran attack

CBS News

Washington — Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut accused the president of misleading the American public for weeks by denying any U.S. personnel were injured in an Iranian missile strike earlier this month and downplaying the severity of their injuries once they became public.

Before leaving the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said the injuries sustained by the American service members in the attack on a base in Iraq were "not very serious."

"I heard they had headaches and a couple of other things," the president told reporters. "I don't consider them very serious injuries, relative to the other injuries that I've seen."

More than a dozen Americans with concussion symptoms have been airlifted to Germany and Kuwait for medical evaluation, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. The Defense Department has not confirmed the exact number of casualties but the figure is "in the teens," according to Major General Alexus Grynkewich, a deputy commander in the U.S. coalition against ISIS.

"You don't get sent to Germany for headaches," Murphy, a Democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, told CBS News in an interview. "You get airlifted to Germany when you're in seriously bad shape."

Iran struck Al Asad Air Base, where American forces are stationed, on January 8, just days after the U.S. killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad. No one was killed in Iran's retaliatory attack, but the day after, the president repeatedly touted that no Americans had been injured.

"The American people should be extremely grateful and happy. No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime," the president said at the White House. "We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases."

The Defense Department said the service members, who had taken cover during the attack, were being screened for traumatic brain injuries. Symptoms can take days to appear.

But Murphy believes the president and his administration misled the public.

"There's smart, dedicated, patriotic people at the Department of Defense who allowed for that lie to be told to all of us for weeks," he told CBS News. "These sound like serious injuries."

Murphy also blames the administration for failing to notify or seek approval from Congress before the Soleimani strike.

"Presidents, including President Obama, were getting looser and looser with legal justification for military activity," Murphy said. "And I feel like in the last two weeks, the lid just came completely off. I don't know that there is any reason for any president in the future to come to Congress to start a war with another country, to assassinate a foreign leader. So when I think about the dangers to democracy, that's at the top of my list right now."