TOLEDO, Ohio — President Donald Trump mocked the legal requirement that Congress give consent before the United States can engage in armed conflicts, alleging Thursday that Democrats would leak sensitive national security information if it were shared with them.
At his first campaign rally of 2020 in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, Trump said he hadn’t had time to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., before the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, adding that “she is not operating with a full deck now.” He then acted out a parody of how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., might leak the planned killing of Soleimani to reporters.
“Schiff is a big leaker, you know, he leaks like crazy,” Trump said, claiming that Democrats “want us to tell them so that they can leak it to their friends in the corrupt media.”
The White House hasn’t cited any instances of Democrats’ leaking sensitive national security information to the media.
Trump didn’t cite which law he was ridiculing, but administration officials have said they based the strike on the measure that Congress passed in 2002 to authorize the war against Iraq when it was led by Saddam Hussein.
Trump said Soleimani had been plotting attacks on multiple embassies. Earlier in the day, he suggested that Soleimani had been planning to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
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“Soleimani was actively planning new attacks, and he was looking very seriously at our embassies, and not just the embassy in Baghdad,” Trump said.
At one point, a small group of protesters interrupted the rally, holding up a “no war” sign.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said ahead of the rally that “none of the facts presented at the classified briefing supported” Trump’s claim about a plot to blow up the embassy in Baghdad.
“You have [the president’s advisers] saying they can’t provide this kind of information to senators in a highly classified setting, but the president is going to say that to the country,” Van Hollen said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” “It just shows how they’re making this up as they go. They would have presented that kind of evidence yesterday if they had it.”
The administration has sent out mixed messages about the nature of the attack it says Soleimani was plotting, which the White House initially said was “imminent.”
Trump’s comments came hours after the House voted mostly along party lines to adopt a war powers resolution to limit his military actions against Iran.
The five-page non-binding resolution, sponsored by freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., a former CIA analyst, emphasizes that if a president wants to take the United States to war, he or she must get authorization from Congress.
Specifically, it directs the president to terminate the use of U.S. armed forces to engage in hostilities against Iran unless Congress has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization or unless military action is necessary to defend against an imminent attack.
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The legislation says that Iran’s government is a lead state sponsor of terrorism and that Soleimani was the “lead architect” of destabilizing activities around the world. It further says the United States has an “inherent right to self-defense against imminent armed attacks” and “maintains the right to ensure the safety of diplomatic personnel serving abroad.”
Trump also took fresh aim on Thursday at a 2020 rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has consistently remained near the top of Democratic presidential primary polling. The Trump campaign ratcheted up its focus on Sanders this week, blasting two back-to-back emails labeling the senator a “wealthy, fossil-fuel guzzling millionaire” who “can’t be trusted to defend American lives.”
Although Trump often refers to Sanders as “crazy Bernie,” he has previously reserved his most stinging attacks for Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. But on Thursday, he slammed Sanders several times, attacking the senator’s health care plan and his criticism of how the Soleimani killing was carried out while seeking to paint him as a leader of the Democratic Party.
“Democrats are taking their cues from socialist Bernie Sanders,” along with the group of freshman women in the House known as “the squad,” Trump said. “They’re the leaders of the party.”
The president said he was saving most of his attacks until closer to the election, when he said he believes they will be more effective.