Obama's security team preps to brief Congress

JOSH LEDERMAN
Associated Press
Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement about Syria at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. Kerry said the U.S. knows, based on intelligence, that the Syrian regime carefully prepared for days to launch a chemical weapons attack. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's national security team was to consult senators Saturday about Syria while House Speaker John Boehner invited House members to return early from their August break for a classified briefing as the White House readied for a possible military strike.

Vice President Joe Biden, who was scheduled to be in Delaware this weekend, was instead at the White House, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry joined him.

Hagel, Kerry and others were to consult by phone Saturday afternoon with Senate Democrats and Republicans. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, also were to participate.

The White House said the calls would be unclassified, meaning officials would be limited in what they can say.

But on Sunday, the White House planned a classified, in-person briefing for House members, according to a notice from Boehner's office to House Republican staffers. House Democrats were planning to invite their members as well.

"This will be one of many classified briefings," read the invitation. "However, given the numerous requests made, the speaker wanted members to have an opportunity this weekend."

The briefing was coming a day after the administration publicly released an unclassified intelligence report concluding that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government killed more than 1,400 last week in a chemical attack. A classified version of the assessment arrived on Capitol Hill late Friday night, the GOP notice said, and was available for all House members to review.

Obama is considering a limited military strike in response to the chemical attack, but said Friday he had not yet made a decision.