Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he was briefed about the US strike that killed Iran Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, while senior Democratic congressional members were kept in the dark ahead of the attack.
“I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,” Graham said on Fox News Friday morning. “I appreciate being brought into the orbit.”
Graham spent multiple days with President Donald Trump at his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, earlier this week, tweeting on Tuesday that he had a meeting with Trump “regarding the situation in Iraq.” It is not clear if Graham was briefed on the strike during that meeting.
“When the President brought it up to me, I was taken aback,” Graham told “Fox and Friends” on Friday. “I’m worried about the stability of the Iraqi government today. I have no idea how they are going to respond.”
Graham is not a member of the “Gang of Eight” – the top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate, and the leaders of the intelligence committees – but he is a close ally to Trump.
It is customary for the Gang of Eight to be privy to sensitive information that the rest of Congress is not always briefed on.
It’s not clear how many other lawmakers had advance notice of the strike.
Senior congressional Democrats who make up part of the Gang of Eight were not notified about the drone strike that killed Soleimani, which they called a breach of protocol over how the top leadership is typically briefed over sensitive military actions.
Asked on Fox News if Congress should have been consulted before the strike, Graham replied, “The last group of people you want to talk to about this is Democrats in Congress, Republicans in Congress.”
“To all of those Democrats who are criticizing the President, I was aware of what his options were. They were about to unleash holy hell on our people in Iraq and throughout the region, and the President decisively took action,” Graham told Fox News.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday criticized the Trump administration for not consulting with Congress ahead of the attack and demanded the full Congress be “immediately briefed.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Zachary Cohen, Hamdi Alkhshali, Arwa Damon and Kareem Khadder contributed to this report.