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Rep. Crow: Congressional questions about Soleimani strike ‘have not been answered’

For a congressional Democrat’s take on the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, we turn to Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Crow is a lawyer and former Army Ranger who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan during his military career. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he is not satisfied with the Trump administration’s handling of the Soleimani strike.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now for a Democrat's take.

    This morning, several Democrats sent a letter to President Trump calling for the administration to release an unclassified explanation for killing Iran's Qasem Soleimani, as well as its strategy for dealing with Iran going forward.

    Colorado Congressman Jason Crow, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, was one of them. He's a former Army Ranger who served in both Iraq and in Afghanistan.

    Congressman Crow, thank you very much for joining us again.

    How convinced are you, the first thing I want to ask, is that hostilities have ended between the United States and Iran? The president today was talking peace. But how certain are you that there won't be some — another attack of some kind?

  • Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.:

    Good evening, Judy. Good to be with you again.

    I'm not certain of that. If one thing is clear, I think we can expect Iran to continue its regional aggression, continue to do what it's done for decades. And that is, use proxy forces, use unconventional forces to try to destabilize the region.

    Their overarching goal here is to remove the United States from Iraq and from the region, because they know, if they do that, that they can be the hegemonic force in the region, because there's nobody else who can actually keep them in check.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We just heard Congressman Gallagher say he is absolutely convinced that the administration was justified in targeting and killing General Soleimani.

    He also said that he didn't think the standard had to be that there was an imminent threat. How do you see that?

  • Rep. Jason Crow:

    Well, I haven't seen anything that absolutely justifies the killing of General Soleimani.

    To be very clear, General Soleimani was a very bad actor. I was in Iraq in 2003, as we started to see the improvised explosives and the roadside bombs increase in lethality as a result of Iranian intervention.

    So it's very clear that he was a danger, but what's unclear to me is the justification this administration is relying on for the strike. Half of the administration is relying on the imminent standard, which, under Article 2, the president has the authority to defend the United States against imminent threats.

    The other half of the administration is coming out and saying they're relying on the 2002 AUMF. Those are two different authorizations, two different sources of authority.

    The administration deserves to give us a clear answer about which one they're relying on.

    But, overall, we have not received the answers that we needed. I led a letter of over 40 of my colleagues in the House that we sent to the president earlier this morning, in advance of the briefing, where we outlined eight questions that we deserve and the American people deserve to have answered about our involvement in the region.

    And those answers — those questions have not been answered.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to ask you about something the president said in his remarks today.

    And that is, he contends that Iran went on what he called a terror spree with the money that it received under the nuclear deal that it signed with the United States and other countries. How do you see that?

  • Rep. Jason Crow:

    I haven't seen any intelligence and any facts whatsoever that corroborate that. That appears to be made out of whole cloth. It's a very dangerous allegation to try to draw connections between those things.

    Iran has been a dangerous and aggressive actor in the region for decades, long before the United States was involved in Iraq, and in the almost 20 years that we have been involved in Iraq. They do need to be checked.

    But the president's attempt to try to put this on prior administrations and draw connections between things that don't have any factual connection is dangerous. And it actually makes it much harder for us here in Congress to have a legitimate policy debate about the issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is Congress' role in all of this?

    I just asked Congressman Gallagher about the resolution that Speaker Pelosi says she's going to be introducing and having a House vote on tomorrow, war powers with regard to having limits on what the president can do without congressional approval in taking military action against Iran.

    His comment was that it's not at all clear that Congress has any role, should have any role at this time.

  • Rep. Jason Crow:

    Well, I would vehemently disagree with that.

    I mean, the founders vested in the United States Congress the authority to make war and to send our young men and women into harm's way. It's one of our most sacred and solemn responsibilities. It's a responsibility that I take seriously, given my background.

    My military career started as a private, and I will never forget being Private Crow in boots and a uniform being asked to do things. And I later became an infantry officer working on the ground and Afghanistan and Iraq, and seeing firsthand the consequences of the decisions made in this town on young men and women throughout our country.

    The responsibility to care for our sons and daughters and to make sure that we are having a robust debate about when we do — when we send those folks into harm's way is in the United States Congress. And it's a debate that we can only have if we're provided information by the president and have a robust dialogue with him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you're saying that that isn't the case?

  • Rep. Jason Crow:

    Yes, that is not happening right now.

    You know, the president trying to notify us via tweet, having briefings that don't give us all the information that we have asked for, even though we asked for that very clearly in advance, we need to be able to have that discussion.

    We have been at war for almost 20 years now. And I remember, in 2003, when I was a young infantry officer leading paratroopers in the invasion of Iraq and on the streets of Baghdad, I heard the same political argument that some people are making now, that now is not the time to have that discussion, that we have to have that discussion later.

    Well, here we are. Thousands of Americans have been killed over the last 20 years. Tens of thousands have been wounded. We have spent over $4 trillion on these wars.

    The time is now to have that discussion about, what is the future of security for America? What is in our national interests? And when are we going to send our young men and women into harm's way?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Jason Crow:

    Thank you.

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