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Menendez and Schumer

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) (L) speaks as Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (R) listens during a news briefing after a weekly policy luncheon July 17, 2018 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Top Senate Democrats Demand Trump Declassify Decision to Kill Soleimani That Brought US to the 'Brink of War With Iran'

"It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner."

Jessica Corbett

Two leading Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate implored President Donald Trump on Monday to immediately declassify the formal notification submitted to Congress detailing the White House decision to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike last week.

"Don't hide from the American people. Declassify your decision to kill Soleimani and bring our country to the brink of war with Iran."
—Sen. Bob Menendez

"It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in a brief letter (pdf) to Trump.

Referencing the legally mandated war powers notification that the president provided to Congress on Saturday, the senators added that "an entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification."

Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) elite Quds Force, was killed in a U.S. airstrike ordered by Trump at Baghdad International Airport on Thursday. The assassination of Soleimani, which led Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to promise "harsh retaliation," has rapidly ramped up fears of the U.S. waging war on Iran.

Menendez, who shared the full letter in a tweet Monday, said that "we are sending a short but clear letter to Pres. Trump: Don't hide from the American people. Declassify your decision to kill Soleimani and bring our country to the brink of war with Iran."

Jamal Abdi, head of National Iranian American Council and its sister organization NIAC Action, responded to the letter on Twitter by pointing out that both Menendez and Schumer opposed the Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), finalized under former President Barack Obama in 2015. Trump ditched the international agreement in May 2018.

The lawmakers' letter came as Trump doubled down on his threat to strike cultural sites across Iran, and as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Tehran for Soleimani's funeral.

In a statement Thursday confirming that Trump ordered the deadly strike, the Pentagon said that "General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more" and claimed that "General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."

Four Washington Post journalists reported Sunday that Trump's "greenlighting of the airstrike near Baghdad airport represents a bureaucratic victory" for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who "first spoke with Trump about killing Soleimani months ago."

"Recent changes to Trump's national security team and the whims of a president anxious about being viewed as hesitant in the face of Iranian aggression created an opening for Pompeo to press for the kind of action he had been advocating," according to the Post.

Linking to a tweet from Post reporter John Hudson, Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser to the 2020 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wrote on Twitter, "That fluttering sound you hear is the 'imminent threat' justification going out the window."

Progressives in the House and Senate, including Sanders, have introduced various measures that aim to block Trump from starting another war in the Middle East without congressional authorization.

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