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Stefanik backs Trump on Iran

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro (Official photo)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik spoke this week on the U.S.-Iran military situation, saying she supports President Donald Trump’s authority to authorize retaliatory military strikes without congressional approval when U.S. security is threatened.

Relations hit a high-tension point last week when Iran shot down a U.S. drone. That was followed by Trump saying he called off of a strike on Iranian facilities because it would have killed 150 people.

“I believe the president has the authority when our national security is at risk, which in this case Iran took action targeting a U.S. drone,” said Stefanik, a Republican from Schuylerville who represents northern New York. “We need to make sure we … give the commander-in-chief the option for a response.”

Stefanik has frequently voted to require congressional approval for presidential actions, but she has supported presidential authority before in military measures.

She had voted in favor of maintaining the president’s need for congressional approval when issuing national emergency declarations in March, regarding immigration into the U.S. from the south, but in February she voted against an act that would pull U.S. military support from Yemen, where it had been supplied without explicit congressional authorization.

Trump, in an interview with The Hill last week, disagreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that the president must have congressional approval to make a military strike on Iran.

“I like the idea of keeping Congress abreast, but I wouldn’t have to do that,” Trump said. “They have ideas, intelligent people that come up with some thoughts. I actually learned a couple things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress which were, I think, helpful to me.”

When asked about this quote, Stefanik cited Article II of the Constitution, which states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” It doesn’t go into any more detail about the president’s military powers, the way it does in granting military powers to Congress, but it is typically seen as giving the president authority to take military action, although it is up to Congress to fund the military, set its rules and declare war.

“I believe the president has the constitutional authority under Article II of the Constitution to protect the national security of the United States,” Stefanik said. “This is not formally going to war. This is about giving the president and our military leaders the option for a type of measured response to send to Iran.”

When asked if a response could escalate to the point of war, Stefanik reiterated confidence in the military intelligence community.

“We’ve had briefings on the House Armed Services Committee,” she said. “I know that our military leadership is very cognizant of potential escalatory issues.

“Iranian leadership, I’m sure, is considering the threat of escalation because we know the U.S. has military superiority.”

Trump said he aborted the Iran strike 10 minutes before it would have commenced because he was informed that 150 Iranians would have been killed. Asked if the president should have approved this strike instead, Stefanik said she trusts Trump’s information and decisions.

“The president had a unique vantage point in terms of advice from military leadership, in terms of intelligence that is incredibly precise that congressional leaders do not have. I support the president’s decision,” Stefanik said. “We need to make sure that there is a measured retaliatory response to attacks from Iran on the U.S. drone, and also on tankers.”

She emphasized that Iran poses a threat and said the U.S. needs to oppose that threat.

“Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Stefanik said. “Particularly for a district like mine, given the importance of the 10th Mountain Division and the numerous deployments soldiers from my district have done in Iraq, we need to remember that Iran has historically targeted U.S. forces.

“Iran is a threat to our U.S. national security, it’s a threat to our allies, and it’s an existential threat to Israel.”

Congressional approval bills

On Friday the Senate rejected a proposal from Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, which would have required congressional approval for the president to order military strikes and funding toward Iran, 50-40.

The House has its own version of this proposal in its annual military funding through the National Defense Authorization Act, introduced by Ro Khanna, D-California, and Matt Gaetz, R-Florida. Stefanik could not be reached for follow-up questions about this proposal before publication.

Tweets

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted, “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

When asked if it was dangerous for the president to post tweets with language like this, Stefanik said his use of social media is unconventional but effective.

“I’ve always said that the president is unique in how he uses Twitter, and it is certainly different than previous presidents,” Stefanik said. “From my perspective, I would not have put out those tweets, but the president oftentimes speaks not only to the American public, but speaks to other global leaders and other countries through Twitter.”

Dangers of Iran

Stefanik said she supports increased sanctions on Iran and said the recent escalation backs up her opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the U.S. backed out of last year.

“The Iranian regime continues to pursue nuclear weapons capability,” Stefanik said. “I believe that they were not honest and forthcoming from the start of the deal. … I did not support the Iranian nuclear agreement. I believe that it was a bad deal. Iran had no intentions of abiding by the agreement.”

Asked if she believes the U.S. leaving the multi-nation deal could have exacerbated tensions, she said Iran was already on the path to increasing its military, specifically nuclear abilities.

Iran was set to breach the uranium enriching limits of the JCPOA by June 27, violating the agreement that is still held by France, Germany, Russia, China and the United Kingdom. Stefanik said she hopes these countries will impose sanctions on Iran if it breaks the conditions of the deal.

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