Vermont’s sole member of the U.S. House said he doesn’t buy President Donald Trump’s rationale for killing Iran’s top general last week and called for a congressional probe into the decision that has roiled the Middle East and thrust the United States into direct confrontation with Iran.
“Let me be frank: I don’t believe what the president has said about the plan,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said at a press conference Tuesday before boarding a plane to Washington, D.C., where Congress reconvenes this week. “I want to have public hearings to get to the bottom of this.”
Welch, a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, echoed statements by its chair, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who on Monday cast doubt on the unspecified intelligence cited by the Trump administration that Qassim Suleimani, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, was plotting “imminent” attacks against the U.S.
Unlike Schiff, Welch has yet to review any intelligence used to justify the drone strike that killed Suleimani and six others at Baghdad International Airport on January 2. He said he plans to review the classified material this week.
Welch nonetheless characterized the strike as reckless and impulsive and said it has already led to insecurity abroad. Repeating a recent Schiff quote in the Washington Post almost verbatim, Welch said Trump “was table-hopping down in Mar-a-Lago when he made this decision.”
“Amateur hour is in charge at the White House,” he said.
In casting doubt Tuesday on the administration's assertion that Suleimani was planning an imminent attack, Welch referred to Iraqi and Iranian officials’ recent statements that Suleimani had traveled to Baghdad for diplomatic discussions.
Earlier Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ridiculed that notion, rhetorically asking reporters in Washington if there was “any history that would indicate it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order, Qassim Suleimani, had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission?" CNN reported.
Welch called Pompeo’s assertion that the strike made Americans safer “absurd.”
He pledged to “be a voice for deescalation” in Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to introduce a resolution under the War Powers Act this week to curtail the president’s military actions against Iran. Welch said he will support it, as well as related legislation introduced in both chambers last Friday by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would bar the use of funds for military force against Iran without congressional authorization. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has signed on to the Senate legislation.
“After authorizing a disastrous, $738 billion military budget that placed no restrictions on this president from starting an unauthorized war with Iran, Congress now has an opportunity to change course,” Sanders and Khanna said in a joint statement.
“We must invest in the needs of the American people, not spend trillions more on endless wars,” they said.