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Joaquin Castro On Iran


When President Trump ordered the drone strike that killed an Iranian military leader, it caught most members of Congress by surprise. Presidents normally brief senior lawmakers of both parties. But by all accounts, that didn't happen. Tehran has now promised to retaliate for the execution of General Qassem Soleimani. The U.S. says it's sending thousands more troops to the region. Joining us now is Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat from Texas. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Welcome, Congressman.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Thank you. Good to be with you.

MCCAMMON: Yesterday, the administration formally notified Congress about this attack. Are you satisfied?

CASTRO: No, not at all. The president should have notified Congress before taking this action, should've consulted with congressional leaders before taking such a dramatic step and having a very high-ranking official in the Iranian government killed and knowing that this would escalate probably into a war.

MCCAMMON: What more would you like to know from the White House?

CASTRO: Well, you know, there's the old adage in politics that you trust but verify. But Donald Trump as president has literally told thousands of lies. So with this president and this administration, we have to verify and then, perhaps, trust. So we need to see as members of Congress what intelligence they were dealing with when they made this decision - that's the first thing. But second, Congress will very likely take action to limit the president's ability to fund any kind of war with Iran.

MCCAMMON: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked lawmakers to hear the facts before passing judgment. Why not hold off before criticizing President Trump's move?

CASTRO: Well, because the president has conducted his foreign policy in a very chaotic and erratic way and sometimes illogical way. And in this case, in a dangerous way. So it's not a situation where the president makes any kind of dramatic action that he wants and then tells Congress. It's got to be the other way around.

MCCAMMON: And what about this claim from the Trump administration that there was a credible threat of attacks on U.S. targets that justified the killing of Soleimani? Have you seen any evidence of that?

CASTRO: I have not. And Congress has not been offered any evidence or any briefing about that to date. Perhaps that will come. But again, that's where the president's track record comes into play because this administration has literally told so many falsehoods, so many lies and because the American people feel like they were duped into the Iraq War. That becomes very problematic. It makes it very hard to trust the administration and this president.

MCCAMMON: The president says he has the power to take out terrorists, and Congress has done nothing to take back that power. You mentioned limiting funding, perhaps. But until Congress is willing to pass a War Powers Act to restrain the president, what other options are there?

CASTRO: Well, the Congress has to take on, for example, one thing - a new AUMF. That has not been done in about 18 years now. And quite honestly, Congress has been on the sidelines of making decisions about war. And it has put itself on the sidelines by not taking action. If you recall in 2013, in about August of 2013, September 2013, President Obama sent a proposed AUMF to the Congress to take up. And Congress didn't take it up. And I think a lot of that has to do with politicians being very shy about taking positions on the use of military force because it can come back. Those decisions can come back and hurt people's political careers the way they have around the Iraq War. But Congress has to be able to take a position and get off the sidelines. We owe that to the American people. But the president owes it to the American people to inform Congress and inform Americans about what he's doing.

MCCAMMON: You're a member of the Subcommittee on Investigations. Will you be looking to investigate the president's decision to take out General Soleimani?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, it's still early to tell whether there would be an investigation in the Foreign Affairs Committee and the subcommittee, perhaps a full committee. We'll certainly have hearings on that to assess the situation, to find out what happened. But in terms of an investigation, I'll have to see how the facts unfold.

MCCAMMON: That's Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat from Texas. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.