Amid signs of growing tensions between the United States and Iran which have prompted worries about military conflict, Senators in both parties on Wednesday urged the Trump Administration to explain the threats supposedly coming from Iran, and why the State Department suddenly announced it is sending non-essential diplomats home from their posts in Iraq.
"I would urge the State Department and the DOD (Department of Defense) to come down here and explain what's going on," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
The lack of an explanation was broached on Wednesday during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by members of both parties, who said lawmakers were in the dark as to what was going on in with Iran, and why American diplomats were suddenly in danger in Iraq.
"The Trump Administration has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The call by Menendez for an immediate briefing was echoed by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) - who was then told by committee chairman Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), that he had been briefed by the Trump administration on the situation - which made clear that Democrats had been left out of the discussions.
U.S. embassy evacuation in #Iran prompts Sen. Menendez to call for immediate briefing by Trump admin. "Says expected brief next week is not soon enough.." @Travis_Tritten @BGOV https://t.co/43LfzWbgCV— Karen L. Alexander (@KarenLeeAlex) May 15, 2019
“While a briefing for all Senators is rumored for next week, that is no substitute for directly briefing this committee today, when there is clearly actionable intelligence available,” - SFRC ranking member Menendez— Laura Kelly (@HelloLauraKelly) May 15, 2019
Across Capitol Hill, Democrats in the House and Senate all but accused the Trump Administration of trying to provoke Iran into a military conflict.
"This escalating crisis with Iran was entirely predictable, and entirely purposeful," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). "This seems like escalation with no end game."
Echoing that was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who warned the White House not to get into any fight with Iran without the express approval of the Congress, as Paul also said he feared the Trump Administration was setting up negotiations with Iran to fail.
Trump's North Korea/Venezuela/Iran policy is all escalation, no strategy. The plan seems to turn the heat up and up and up and just hope that it works out.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 15, 2019
It hasn't worked out with North Korea.
It hasn't worked out with Venezuela.
It's really not working out with Iran.
But some Republicans pushed back - as U.S. allies cast doubts on evidence that there was an immediate threat from Iran, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) assailed unidentified officials quoted in one story in the New York Times.
The “American official,speaking on the condition of anonymity” who said the new intelligence on Iranian threat was “small stuff” is a liar.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 15, 2019
The Trump Administration seemed unlikely to offer briefings to all members immediately - instead that seemed likely to take place in both the House and Senate next week.