Key lawmakers to get Syria chemical weapons briefing Thursday

Olivier Knox
Yahoo! NewsAugust 28, 2013

Key lawmakers will get a classified briefing from the Obama administration on Thursday regarding Syria’s alleged slaughter of civilians using chemical weapons last week, two U.S. officials said.

The briefing, to be held by conference call because Congress is still out on its August recess, is expected to include the chairmen and ranking members of key committees as well as the top leaders from each party in each chamber, the sources said. One of the officials specified that chairs of the House and Senate committees on armed services, foreign relations and intelligence would likely take part.

The officials asked not to be identified by name or title in order to discuss a classified hearing that has not yet taken place. It was not clear which officials would brief lawmakers.

Obama aides have said that they would brief Congress on their case against Syrian President Bashar Assad before making public portions of a formal intelligence finding laying out evidence to buttress the president’s charge that the regime carried out the Aug. 21 attack.

The White House declined to confirm the timing of the briefing.

"The President continues to review options with his national security team, and senior administration officials from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and Intelligence Community are continuing to reach out to bipartisan House and Senate Leadership, Leadership of the relevant Committees, and other Members of Congress," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. "The views of the Congress are important to this process, so we will be continuing to engage with them as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response."

President Barack Obama faces pressure from some lawmakers to seek formal authorization from Congress before launching any military action against Assad’s forces.

The White House has refused to commit to doing so — and is unlikely to do so, given that low public support for intervention make the vote politically risky and that Republican House Speaker John Boehner has requested only “meaningful consultation.”