Senate Armed Services Committee member Tim Kaine, D-Va., told Fox News Wednesday the drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was not covered under the George W. Bush-era Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), as was the case for military campaigns under both the 43rd president and former President Obama.
Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, clarified on Wednesday’s “Special Report” that Soleimani was a “despicable killer” and that Iran is a “bad actor” nation-state.
“The question is, ‘Should the United States be at war with Iran?’ And President Trump, in a series of back-and-forth escalations in the last 18 months have brought us to that place,” he said, adding that many Republican senators believe “earnestly” that a war with Iran would be beneficial.
“But we should all be able to agree that we shouldn’t be at war unless Congress has a debate and vote,” said Kaine, whose eldest son Nat is in the Marine Corps. “That’s what the Constitution requires and frankly that’s what our troops deserve.”
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Kaine added that the White House must clearly explain to the public why a conflict with Tehran would be in the national interest.
Responding to a tweet from Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., that claimed Democrats are calling for limiting Trump’s presidential war powers because he is a Republican, Kaine said the assertion was unfair.
“President Obama had a congressional authorization — the 2001 [AUMF] that the Bush administration, the Obama administration and the Trump administration all maintained … was sufficient to cover the attacks against terrorist groups,” Kaine said, adding that a blanket authorization by Congress would give Trump the ability to act without getting lawmakers’ approval for each strike.
“There is not a war authorization against Iran. [Soleimani] is an official in Iran,” he explained. “The administration has not claimed that the 2001 authorization covers him. Unless we declare war on Iran, we can’t be striking their officials, and especially not striking them in Iraq when Iraq has not given us permission to wage military action on their own soil.”
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Following up, Baier told Kaine the AUMF did not give Obama authority to drone a U.S. citizen — radical Falls Church, Va. imam Anwar al-Awlaki — who was overseas fomenting terrorism against the United States.
Kaine admitted that the killing of al-Awlaki is a “thorny legal question,” but said that the Obama administration’s rationale was that he “put himself in the position of being an enemy combatant” and his death was therefore covered under the AUMF.
“What we don’t have in Iran is we don’t have an authorization,” he added.