• Sen. Graham says he was briefed about Baghdad airstrike beforehand
  • Top Democrats say they were kept in the dark about the attack
  • Democrats suggest the airstrike violated the War Powers Resolution
  • The airstrike killed a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani

Friday morning Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was on the phone with Fox News and explained that he had been made aware of the plan to target a senior Iranian general in Baghdad.

On Thursday, the Pentagon publicly announced that a successful airstrike in Iraq had killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Democrats on the Hill were quick to express alarm that they had not been informed by the White House over the operation, suggesting that keeping them in the dark may be illegal.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted that Congress “didn’t authorize” the airstrike and that “all steps” must be taken to stop an “almost inevitable escalation” in conflict with Iran.

It appears that Trump didn’t keep all members of Congress out of the loop on the Soleimani strike, though. Speaking to the hosts of "Fox & Friends" via telephone, Graham said that he was “briefed about the potential operation” while in Florida, presumably visiting President Donald Trump, CNN reported. The senator also praised Trump for “letting the world know you cannot kill an American without impunity,” referring to Soleimani’s death.

The questions then become, was Graham the only congressperson Trump informed about the airstrike beforehand? If not, were only Republicans briefed? If the latter scenario turns out to be accurate, it would not be surprising. Given Trump’s recalcitrance over the House’s approval to impeach him, Trump may well be deliberately excluding Hill Democrats to send a message: If you go after me, I will not work with you.

Although Trump may view keeping Democrats in the dark over the airstrike as simple political maneuvering, it veers into a legal gray area, at best. Democrats including Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schiff have implied, in their remarks about Soleimani’s killing, that Trump’s military action, because it was done without congressional approval, was not legal.

This refers to the War Powers Resolution, a federal law that places strict limits on the abilities of the president to deploy armed forces. In general, military actions require approval from Congress, under this law. However, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a bill providing an exemption given the military target could be linked in any way to the attacks. In other words, all that is needed for the president to order a military action is for him or her to provide tenuous proof that the target can be tied to the Sept. 11 attacks or is loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda.

This legal loophole has been used extensively by every president since it came into effect in 2001.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, before the airstrike was publicly announced, has said that military action against Iran would fall under this exemption.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a key ally for President Donald Trump, is angered by the Syria pullout
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a key ally for President Donald Trump, is angered by the Syria pullout AFP / SAUL LOEB