MURPHY: THE ADMINISTRATION MUST COME TO CONGRESS TO AUTHORIZE ANY FUTURE MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAN

“The War Powers Act was put into place specifically to guard against a series of escalatory military actions that accidentally lead to war”

HARTFORD—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Friday held a press conference to discuss the U.S. airstrikes that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Commander General Qasem Soleimani, and the latest state of play ahead of the Senate’s impeachment trial.

“If the Iranians were to assassinate the U.S. Secretary of Defense, we would consider that an act of war and we would respond disproportionately. I think we need to expect that the Iranians will also act disproportionately,” said Murphy. 

“It is incumbent upon the administration to come to Congress and explain why they had to take this specific action in order to prevent harm to Americans abroad. It is also incumbent upon the administration to come to Congress to get authorization for future military action. I think it's debatable whether there was legal justification for this strike,” Murphy continued. “There is no debate that the War Powers Act requires the administration to now come before Congress and ask for authorization for any future military activity against Iran. In fact, the War Powers Act was put into place specifically to guard against a series of escalatory military actions that accidentally lead to war. And so the War Powers Act was passed for this kind of crisis.”

Murphy rejected the notion that the United States is safer with General Soleimani dead: “Secretary Pompeo said today that Americans in the region are safer than ever before. That's not true. At the very time he was making that statement, he was ordering the evacuation of all Americans from Iraq…And at the very least, the administration deserves to tell us the truth about what happened and about the consequences for American security interests moving forward…They are not telling Americans the truth about the consequences of what they did.”

Murphy also discussed the upcoming impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate: “Part of the reason why I want to see people like Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney testify is because it might present me with evidence that would change my mind. I don't know why Republicans don't have the same interest.”

You can watch the question and answer session with reporters here, and a full transcript of Murphy’s remarks can be found below:

“Thank you very much, Senator Blumenthal. Thank you all for joining us here today.

“It is shocking to know that the United States has engaged in the assassination of a high-level foreign official, despite the fact that he unquestionably is responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans. The question we have to be asking ourselves today is whether Qasem Soleimani is more dangerous to the United States alive or dead as a martyr—who will now rally the Iranian government and Iranian proxies around the region to do even greater harm to American interests.

“The stated reason for the assassination of General Soleimani was to prevent attacks against the United States. My guess is that the assassination of Soleimani will lead to greater harm to U.S. personnel, U.S.  citizens and U.S. interests. That is why previous Democratic and Republican administrations chose not to assassinate Soleimani despite their knowledge of his complicity in harm against United States interests. 

“And the question moving forward is whether the administration has given any thought as to how to manage the fallout that comes from such a drastic action. This is the equivalent of the Iranians assassinating the U.S. Secretary of Defense. If the Iranians were to assassinate the U.S. Secretary of Defense, we would consider that an act of war and we would respond disproportionately. I think we need to expect that the Iranians will also act disproportionately.

“I do not believe the administration has gamed out how very badly this could go for the U.S. and our interests. 

“It is incumbent upon the administration to come to Congress and explain why they had to take this specific action in order to prevent harm to Americans abroad. It is also incumbent upon the administration to come to Congress to get authorization for future military action. I think it's debatable whether there was legal justification for this strike. There is no debate that the War Powers Act requires the administration to now come before Congress and ask for authorization for any future military activity against Iran. In fact, the War Powers Act was put into place specifically to guard against a series of escalatory military actions that accidentally lead to war. And so the War Powers Act was passed for this kind of crisis. 

“And every member of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, should now be requiring, demanding that the administration come to Congress with a full explanation of the justification for this strike and a request for authorization if they intend to take out any future military activity.

“Secretary Pompeo said today that Americans in the region are safer than ever before. That's not true. At the very time he was making that statement, he was ordering the evacuation of all Americans from Iraq—a country we are not at war with today, a country that is vital to our national security interests. Americans in the Middle East are at much greater harm today than they were yesterday. And at the very least, the administration deserves to tell us the truth about what happened and about the consequences for American security interests moving forward. They're not off to a good start today. They are not telling Americans the truth about the consequences of what they did. 

“Senator Blumenthal's right. Impeachment is about a national security crisis as well. Part of the reason we have gotten ourselves into this mess in the Middle East is because no one trusts the United States any longer. They watched what we did to Ukraine—pulling a friend into a domestic political crisis—and countries now want to stay as far away from the United States as they can.

“The reason we needed to move forward with impeachment is because the president was trying to steal the 2020 election. We had to set in motion a series of consequences for his effort to try to rig the upcoming election. But the president was also jeopardizing and is jeopardizing American security because he has telegraphed to allies and would be allies that if you do business with the United States, you will become subject to the president's personal political priorities. In order to protect the United States, we had to move forward with this set of consequences.

“I agree with Senator Blumenthal. I don't see how we have a fair trial without an attempt to discover the truth. I've been fairly open about my belief as to the necessary consequences for the president's actions. I do believe that the evidence I've seen thus far merits removal from office, but I remain open to changing my mind if the president presents [us with] exculpatory evidence. 

“Part of the reason why I want to see people like Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney testify is because it might present me with evidence that would change my mind. I don't know why Republicans don't have the same interest. They may today not believe that the president's actions warrant removal, but why wouldn't they want to get additional evidence and information before they make up their mind? 

“This is not a criminal trial. We shouldn't hold it to the exact same standard. But it is a fact-finding endeavor, and we should make at least a minimal attempt to try to discover facts that the House could not. These are both matters of grave national security.

“Finally, I will offer one more point of agreement with Senator Blumenthal. Over the course of the next 24 hours, I think we'll have conversations with our leadership and perhaps with Republicans as well about the timing of our deliberations both on impeachment and with respect to the path forward on Iran. 

“Next week will be a very important and a very busy week, and I think we're both looking forward to having conversations with our colleagues throughout the rest of the day. I’d be happy to answer some questions.”

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