President Donald Trump doesn’t believe he needs congressional approval to make a military strike against Iran, but he likes “the idea of keeping Congress abreast.”
“I do like keeping them – they have ideas, they’re intelligent people, they’ll have some thoughts. I actually learned a couple of things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress, but I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it legally,” the President said Monday in an interview with The Hill, a CNN affiliate.
The question of Trump’s authority to approve a military strike without congressional approval has been hotly debated among members of Congress in recent days amid escalating tensions with Iran.
Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN on Monday it would be within the President’s authority to take military action against Iran, claiming “we’re at war with them.”
“You got to keep mind, Iran, they’re a bunch of terrorists and they hate us. And we’re at war with them,” Inhofe said. “And you know, this is serious stuff. And I don’t think that we, I think the President could find himself in a position where he would have to do something and do something right away in the best interest, and he has the power to do that.”
But other members of Congress – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – have pushed back on Trump’s assertion.
“Let me be very clear, the Democrats in the meeting – House and Senate Democrats – were very clear that Congress must act,” Pelosi told reporters Friday. “He must have the authority of Congress before we initiate military hostilities into Iran.”
Inhofe specified his thinking that Trump’s authority to take military action against Iran falls within his executive power, but outside the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and is largely used to authorize military action against al-Qaeda and ISIS.
“I just, I don’t think you need an AUMF. I think he could do that within the powers of the executive,” he said.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul told reporters last week efforts by the Trump administration to use the 2001 authorization against Iran would be “inappropriate.”
“I think every president tries to make the case that Congress can’t tell them what to do on foreign policy or war,” Paul said. “They’re wrong.”
On Monday, Trump announced new sanctions against Iran after the downing of a US drone last week.
“Today’s actions follow a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks, including shooting down of US drones,” Trump said. “The supreme leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible of the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country. His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report