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Senators Seek More From Administration on U.S. Mission in Niger

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham both told "Meet The Press" they weren’t aware the U.S. has had a thousand troops in Niger.
Image: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, on Meet the Press, OCt. 22, 2017.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, on Meet the Press, OCt. 22, 2017.NBC News

WASHINGTON — Nearly three weeks after the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., both said they hadn't known that the United States has had a thousand troops stationed in the African country and were eager to learn more about the exact nature of the mission there.

The four service members were killed during an ambush in Niger on October 4th. The Senate Armed Service Committee, of which Graham is a member, has requested more information on the attack, including what role the U.S. military currently has in the country.

Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Graham on Friday, and on “Meet The Press,” Graham and Schumer both said they expect a briefing on the situation in Niger this week. Mattis also met with Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain, R-Ariz., who had threatened to subpoena the Defense Secretary if he didn't provide more information on the Niger situation.

"We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing," Graham said. "So John McCain is going to try to create a new system to make sure that we can answer the question, why were we there, we’ll know how many soldiers are there, and if somebody gets killed there, that we won’t find out about it in the paper. And John McCain -- and I think General Mattis -- are going to come up with a new process, I hope."

“I can say this to the families,” Graham said. “They were there to defend America. They were there to help allies. They were there to prevent another platform to attack America and our allies.”

Related: Niger Ambush Came After 'Massive Intelligence Failure' Source Says

Also appearing on “Meet The Press,” Schumer used the opportunity to again push for Congress to re-examine the Authorization for Use Military Force – a measure passed by Congress in 2001 that authorizes military action in the fight against terror.

“We're on a A.U.M.F. that extends 16 years, from right after we were attacked at the World Trade Center,” Schumer said. “So I would be for reexamining it. Absolutely. There's no easy answer, but we should look at it.”

Graham, however, wasn’t interested in Congress revisiting the issue, calling this a “war without boundaries” that’s spreading outside of the Middle East and into Africa.

“I’m arguing that the current authorization as long as it’s related to radical Islam is enough. But the military determines who the threats are. They come up with the engagement policy, and if we don’t like what the military does, we can defund the operation. “