Menendez Demands Trump Administration Fully Inform Congress about Intelligence behind Rising Tensions with Iran

Menendez Demands Trump Administration Fully Inform Congress about Intelligence behind Rising Tensions with Iran

“By refusing to provide members of Congress with critical information, this Administration is blatantly disregarding the fundamental governing structures of the United States as outlined in our Constitution.”

 

 

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks on the floor of the United States Senate, to address the Trump Administration’s refusal to provide critical briefings to the Senate about their claims of increased Iranian threats against American citizens and assets in the region. As the committee charged with oversight of our nation’s foreign policy, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also has jurisdiction over authorizing the use of military force and embassy security. Below are the Senator’s remarks as delivered: 

“Mr. President, I come to the floor in alarm, and to demand answers from this Administration about Iran—about its policies, about it what intelligence the Administration has. For more than a week, we have seen press reports and heard rumors about ‘threats’ to U.S. interests and possibly American citizens. For more than a week we have been demanding that the Administration provide senior level official to brief members of the United States Senate. For more than a week, the Administration has ignored these requests. It has, for all intents and purposes, refused to provide members of Congress with information critical to our national security. Information it says indicates that American citizens and American assets may be in harm’s way. 

After specifically requesting information on security posture at diplomatic facilities in Iraq on Monday, this morning, we learned – from the press - that the Administration is ordering the departure of staff from our embassy in Baghdad and our consulate in Erbil. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, it is outrageous to be learning about the evacuation of an embassy from media reports.

There are only two reasons to make this order: we have credible intelligence that our people are at risk, or there is some type of preparation for military action in Iran.

Mr. President this is unacceptable. By refusing to provide members of Congress with critical information, this Administration is a blatantly disregarding the fundamental governing structures of the United States as outlined in our Constitution. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is charged with writing the laws that authorize the use of military force and of oversight of the State Department and the safety of those who work there. The Administration must provide this committee with the information we need to judiciously and appropriately make policies. 

While a briefing for all Senators is rumored for next week, this is not confirmed, nor is this an acceptable timeline. Next week may be too late.

We do not need another Iraq weapons of mass destructions moment, which led us to a disastrous military engagement when there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found. We need clarity. We need answers. And we need them now. 

We cannot make foreign policy decisions while flying blind.

Make no mistake, I have no doubts that Iran continues to be a bad actor in the region and throughout the world. Iranian leaders continue to support dangerous proxy actors throughout the region. Iran continues to violate arms embargoes. It continues to oppress its own people. 

Indeed, I have spent the better part of two decades developing legislation and policies to stop Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon and attacks against our allies, including Israel. Working across the aisle, often cajoling and prodding the Executive branch and our allies, Congress led the effort to build an extensive economic and political pressure campaign to force Iran to the negotiating table. Our allies in Europe, Asia, and across the world, most of whom share our concerns about Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon and its other malign activity, have been critical to this effort.

When building a policy to effectively confront an adversary, you must have an end goal, you must have clear objectives, and take actions in pursuit of those objectives. With Iran, our objective was to ensure that Iran never develops a pathway to a nuclear weapon. 

So I’m all for putting on as much pressure as we can. But that requires also having a clear way of showing how it can be alleviated. There must be a viable, tenable, diplomatic track.

If I were to put you in a room, lock the door, throw away the key and tell you there was no way out and no way to survive, you would sure as hell start looking for ways to break down the door.

So for a campaign of maximum pressure, when the moment of maximum leverage is reached, it must be seized. That requires working with our allies to offer a real diplomatic path to negotiations. 

British Major General Chris Ghika, the Deputy Commander of the American-led coalition to fight the Islamic State, has called into question some of the credibility of the intelligence our officials say we have regarding Iranian-backed forces in Iraq. Yesterday, Spain, pulled a frigate from a U.S.-led naval group that had been scheduled for a joint training mission two years ago, saying the original mission had been changed.

Our allies are critical. Not just in confronting Iranian malign activity, but in securing our interests across the world. 

So let me conclude with two points.

Now is the moment to invest in a diplomatic surge to meaningfully engage our allies and Iran in serious negotiations to end its pathway towards nuclear weapons and its malign activities.

Second, Congress has not authorized war with Iran, and the Administration, if it is contemplating military action with Iran, must come to Congress to seek approval.

Mr. President, I call on every member of this body, on both sides of the aisle, to assert our institutional and our constitutional prerogative and demand more information from this Administration, and demand classified briefings. With matters this serious at stake, we must demand more. We cannot – we will not – be led into dangerous military adventurism. The Administration must provide this critical information to Congress. And it must do so immediately.”

 

###

Press Contact

Juan Pachon (202) 224-4651