Booker left campaign trail for White House briefing on Iran. He didn’t like what he heard.

Posted Jan 08, 2020

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Cory Booker cut short a campaign trip to Iowa to hear from top Trump administration officials about the conflict with Iran.

He emerged from the closed-door briefing unhappy with what he had heard about the imminent danger to the U.S. that President Donald Trump cited in ordering the killing of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

Iran then retaliated by firing missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing American troops.

“This was a wholly unsatisfying briefing where there was 75 minutes where it was presented with no evidence about this threshold of imminence,” Booker, D-N.J., told reporters in the Capitol after the briefing.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wasn’t satisfied either.

“It just makes me concerned that we cannot have clarity on those key questions,” said Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “You cannot keep from members of Congress who have to make votes on war and peace the information that’s necessary.”

The two lawmakers were among the U.S. senators who met Wednesday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Gina Haspel, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Booker, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, cut short his latest trip to Iowa, where he is concentrating his efforts in advance of the Feb. 3 caucuses. He said Iran took precedence.

“This is a major issue for our nation in an area that increasingly under this president becoming less stable and less secure,” said Booker, who also sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. “This is very important to be here, obviously.”

Booker and Menendez went separate ways when it came to President Barack Obama’s international agreement to relax sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Trump unilaterally scrapped the deal.

“We have been plunged into more uncertainty and potential for violence because we are out of that deal,” said Booker, who supported the agreement.

Menendez, who voted no, said that previous administrations could have killed Soleimani but chose not to.

“They judged that the consequences that flowed from that were greater than the benefit from eliminating Soleimani,” Menendez said. “I would try to determine why this administration came to a different conclusion, other than that they wanted to.”

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