WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans were divided Friday following President Donald Trump's decision to abort a planned missile strike against Iran for the downing of a U.S. drone.
"I’ll judge ultimately based on if there is a response, but if the response is no response then I think this is a mistake in pretty big proportions," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a former Air Force pilot who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He added: "This was a direct attack on U.S. assets."
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former Navy SEAL who was wounded in Afghanistan, said the president’s strategy to be flexible is a smart one.
"We now have the best of both worlds," said Crenshaw, a freshman member of the House Homeland Security Committee. "There’s a clear indication that we’re willing to strike and retaliate when they hit us, and now there’s also an indication that the president is saying, ‘listen, I control the narrative. I control the escalation and I will give you a second chance, and now it is up to you what to do with it'."
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Trump abruptly canceled the strike Thursday after the military told him about the potential casualties.
"We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die," Trump said, adding: "150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone."
....On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
Trump added that he is in "no hurry" to respond to Iran because "our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night."
....proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
GOP lawmakers say they are waiting to see what the president's next move is.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who heads the House Republican Conference, said it could be “a very serious mistake” if Trump doesn’t respond to Iran with more than tweets.
"We simply can’t allow America’s adversaries to think that they can shoot down a U.S. military drone with impunity," Cheney told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday. "The failure to respond to this kind of direct provocation that we’ve seen now from the Iranians, in particular over the last several weeks, could in fact be a very serious mistake."
But other House Republican leaders – Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry of Pennsylvania, Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul of Texas and Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes of California – issued a joint statement supporting Trump.
"There must be a measured response to these actions," the lawmakers said, referring to Iran's takedown of a U.S. drone and recent attacks on two commercial oil tankers. "President Trump and his national security team remain clear-eyed on the situation and what must be done in response to increased Iranian aggression."
Democrats were more vocal, advising the president to move carefully before threatening – or taking – military action.
"We are in an extremely dangerous and sensitive situation with Iran," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "We must calibrate a response that de-escalates and advances American interests, and we must be clear as to what those interests are."
Pelosi also said any decision to engage in "hostilities" with Iran "must not be initiated without the approval of Congress."
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said he is working with other Democrats "to draft a resolution to prevent this from escalating. We cannot let ourselves get into another Iraq and Afghanistan, too many American and civilian lives have already been lost to war."
The episode drew comparisons to 2013 when congressional Republicans blasted President Barack Obama for not following through on a threat to punish the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.
Kinzinger tweeted that "America was facing a crisis in confidence" similar to six years ago if Trump didn't act this time.
America is facing a crisis in confidence. Obama's decision to cancel a strike in Syria in 2013 has had ramifications that are still being felt today. We cannot let the provocations and attacks by Iran go unanswered. https://t.co/AAFfnaqtZ5— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) June 21, 2019
But Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and one of Trump's staunchest allies in Congress praised the president's tactics.
"I think he’s playing a little game of show and tell with the Iranians," he told USA TODAY. "He’s showing them what he could do and then he’s telling them he didn’t do it last night."
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook and Bart Jansen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'This was a direct attack on U.S. assets': Trump's aborted Iran strike draws criticism from Republicans