2020-01-11 09:33:211 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Mike Lee (Image source: Public domain)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is still talking. That's how upset he became with officials at the Senate briefing of the situation with Iran after the airstrike that took out military commander Qasem Soleimani. He and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) exited the meeting and blasted the GOP officials in the meeting, and the next day, Lee was still fed up with the administration for believing it can kill foreign officials without having to answer to anyone.
Last Friday Soleimani was killed in a drone strike that left many surprised. What left Congress scratching their heads is why they were surprised as well. They weren't consulted for approval before the hit. And now the situation has continued to evolve, with Iran returning the favor by sending more than a dozen missiles to attack U.S. military bases in Iraq.
This led to the briefing that left Lee and Paul upset. "The briefing lasted only 75 minutes, whereupon our briefers left. This, however, is not the biggest problem I have with the briefing, which I would add was probably the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate," he complained after the briefing.
Lee explained that during the briefing they were told they should not dissent from Trump, could not debate it, and if Trump needed justification to go to war, the senator said, "I'm sure we could think of something."
"I find it insulting, and I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States," he added. "It's un-American, it's unconstitutional, and it's wrong. ... They are appearing before a coordinate branch of government responsible for their funding, for their confirmation for any approval for any military actions they might take. They had to leave after 75 minutes while they were in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this in public. I find that to be absolutely insane."
Additionally, he made it known that based on that briefing, he will join in a war-powers resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).
Senate Intelligence Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made a statement that aligns with the very person Lee and Paul were upset with in the meeting. He left the meeting and said Lee and Paul were "overreacting," adding, "I'm going to let people know ... to play this game with the War Powers Act,' which I think is unconstitutional, is that whether you mean to or not, you're empowering the enemy."
Lee talked with Rachel Martin of NPR and continued to complain about the briefing, noting the intelligence behind the assassination of Soleimani was the "worst" he'd ever seen. He added that officials refused to address any "hypothetical" situations where they would need to ask Congress for the authorization to exert military force on Iran.
The senator shared that officials "were unable or unwilling to identify any point" at which they'd seek Congress's approval before using military force.
Asked for examples of the hypothetical situations that were presented to the officials, Lee said, "As I recall, one of my colleagues asked a hypothetical involving the Supreme Leader of Iran.
"If at that point the United States government decided that it wanted to undertake a strike against him personally, recognizing that he would be a threat to the United States, would that require authorization for the use of military force?" he questioned. "The fact that there was nothing but a refusal to answer that question was perhaps the most deeply upsetting thing to me in that meeting."
He also shared that during the briefing an official "discouraged us from even having a debate on the Senate floor" regarding whether Congress should pass new measures such as Kaine's.
"that might somehow embolden the Iranian regime in future attacks against the United States," Lee said of the official's statement in the meeting, using nearly the same wording as Graham outside the meeting.
After the meeting, Trump tweeted that "all House Republicans" should "vote against Crazy nancy Pelosi's war powers resolution," a measure the House speaker put to a House vote on Thursday. It would require the president to end military hostilities against Iran 30 days after it was enacted if he hasn't received prior authorization from Congress.
The resolution passed the House 224-194, with eight Democrats siding with Republicans and 3 Republicans siding with the Democrats.
Trump picked a curious time for him and his administration to anger Senate Republicans. His Senate impeachment trial is expected to start soon, and he can ill afford any defectors from the Republicans with the slim majority his party has in the Senate. However, he and Rand have been the only two to speak up.
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