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In an interview with the Washington Post Monday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) suggested that the House hold open hearings on President Trump’s decision to target and kill Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in a rocket strike last Thursday.
“I think there should be open hearings on the subject,” Schiff said. “The president has put us on a path where we may be at war with Iran. That requires the Congress to fully engage.”
What are the details?
To build his argument, Schiff pointed to alleged internal skepticism from the Pentagon regarding the rationale for the attack, reported by The New York Times.
Following the strike, the Pentagon had released a statement claiming the attack on Soleimani was a defensive action “aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” The statement suggested that Gen. Soleimani, former head of the Iranian Quds force — a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization — was actively planning attacks on American diplomats and service members in Iraq and the surrounding region.
Schiff told the Washington Post that he is not convinced of this: “I’m certainly not satisfied that the intelligence supports the conclusion that the killing of Soleimani was going to either prevent attacks on the United States or reduce the risk to American lives.”
“If anything, that risk is going to go up, not down,” Schiff argued.
The anti-Trump Democratic lawmaker also hopes open hearings would discern if Trump’s recent warning that the U.S. is prepared to attack 52 Iranian sites if any Americans or American assets are harmed in retaliation reflect Pentagon planning.
“None of that could come out of the Pentagon,” Schiff said regarding Trump’s threats. “Absolutely no way.”
Just more political theater?
The House Intelligence Committee, led by Schiff, just wrapped up their monthslong impeachment probe against President Trump last month. Before then, Schiff became a prominent voice accusing the Trump administration of colluding with Russia during the 2016 election, though such claims were ultimately debunked following a years-long special counsel investigation.
To many, then, news that Schiff wants more open hearings smacks simply of a desire for more political theater — another chance to drum up drama ahead of the 2020 election.
According to the Washington Post, Schiff hopes the hearings would allow Congress to grill Pentagon officials on whether Trump’s actions and warnings are in line with Defense Department strategy or if they are rogue threats, and whether “such threats could recklessly lead to more negative consequences.”