Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump said "hope not" when he was asked Thursday if the United States is going to war with Iran.
That answer to a reporters question during a photo opportunity at the White House with Swiss President Ueli Maurer came amid growing concern about a conflict between the U.S. and Iran.
Meanwhile, members of Congress blasted the Trump administration for being left in the dark about details about the situation with Iran — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump lacks authority to declare war on Iran.
"The responsibility in the Congress is for Congress to declare war," said Pelosi, D-Calif.
"So I hope the presidents advisors recognize that they have no authorization to go forward in any way. They cannot call the authorization, AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force, that was passed in 2001, as any authorization to go forward in the Middle East now," she said.
"I like what I hear from the president that he has no appetite for this," she added. "One of the places that I agree with the president is that both of us in our opposition to the war in Iraq and I hope the same attitude will prevail with the president of the United States even though some of his supporters are rattling sabers."
The Trump administration has sent an aircraft carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East in response to what it has characterized "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran.
Those indications include a purported threat from Iran against U.S. diplomatic posts in Iraq, as well as worry that Iran is setting the stage to place rocket launchers on ships in the Persian Gulf.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department ordered nonemergency government employees to leave the American embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters Thursday: "The American people have been kept in the dark. It is disgraceful and despicable that were on the verge of war, and the American people are given this kind of confused and chaotic picture of what the situation is on the ground."
Blumenthal said hat he and other senators have heard that "we are supposedly going to have a briefing on Tuesday" from the Trump administration about the Iran situation.
But, Blumenthal added, "were hearing it may be too late because hostilities may have begun or there may be an escalation on the military situation."
That would be "petrifying," he said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., evoked the Vietnam War in his criticism of the administrations Iran planning.
"Literally. I dont know if someone in the White House is waiting for a Gulf of Tonkin moment here to initiate military action against Iran," Durbin said, referring to the purported attack by North Vietnam on an American naval vessel in 1964, which has been viewed as a bogus pretext by President Lyndon Johnson to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
"That would be a serious mistake, and under our Constitution, this president has to seek the authority to do from Congress," Durbin said.
New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said "the administration should give us a classified briefing as soon as possible."