Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) slammed the administration classified Iran briefing on the strike that killed one of Iran’s top generals, Qassem Soleimani last week, calling the closed-door meeting “insulting and demeaning.”
“What I found so distressing about that briefing was that one of the messages we received from the briefers was, ‘Do not debate. Do not discuss the issue of the appropriateness of further military intervention against Iran. And then if you do, you’ll be emboldening Iran,’” Lee told reporters in a heated press conference following the briefing. “I find this insulting and demeaning to the Constitution of the United States.”
He added, “It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch of government to come in and tell us that we can’t debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran. They had to leave after 75 minutes while they’re in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public.”
The closed-door meeting conducted by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley in a secure location on Capitol Hill Wednesday, briefed both the House and Senate to provide evidence that the strike on Soleimani was justified and he posed an imminent threat to Americans. Lee characterized the meeting as one of “the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue.”
“They are appearing before a coordinate branch of government responsible for their funding, for their confirmation, for any approval of any military action they might take,” Lee said. “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.”
Lee emphasized his criticism of the briefing was directed towards the briefers and not at the President’s Iran policy. He added that he is going to have a conversation with President Trump about what occurred at the briefing
“I want to state at the outset: I support President Trump,” Lee said. “I support the way that he has wielded his powers as commander in chief. I think he’s actually been the most respectful of all presidents during my lifetime of the commander-in-chief power. I think the people who briefed the Senate today did him a grave disservice.”
Sen. Rand Paul(R-KY) standing echoed Lee’s sentiments on the briefing, adding the administration’s decision to implement the 2002 war authorization as justification for the attack on Soleimani was “absurd” and an “insult.”
“I see no way in the world you could logically argue that an authorization to have war with Saddam Hussein has anything to do with having war with people currently in Iraq,” Paul said. “Today, this is Sen. Lee and I saying, we are not abdicating our duty. Let’s have the debate, and let’s have some senators stand up.”
Both Lee and Paul said they will now support a War Powers resolution introduced by Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine to curb Trump’s authority to take unilateral military action. The briefing, prompted both Senators to changed their minds to back the resolution.
“I can say that after that briefing—that briefing is what changed my mind,” Lee said. “I’m now going to support it. I walked into the briefing undecided, I walked out of that briefing decided specifically because of what happened in that briefing.”
Democrats need to win two more Republicans for the resolution to pass and Kaine could bring it to the floor as soon as next week. Only 51 votes are needed to pass the Kaine war powers resolution, because under Senate rules such a proposal falls into the category of what is known as a “privileged resolution.” Most if not all Democratic senators are expected to vote for it.
The House will vote Thursday on a War Power Resolution to limit President Trump’s to end the use of U.S. armed forces to engage in hostilities against Iran without congressional authorization.