Republican Senators Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) ripped the Trump administration over a closed-door briefing on Iran on Wednesday, announcing they will now support a resolution reining in President Trump’s military powers. The Hill reports, Rand Paul, Mike Lee rip administration over ‘insulting and demeaning’ Iran briefing:
Lee, speaking to reporters after a roughly hour-long closed-door meeting with administration officials, characterized it as “the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley were dispatched to brief both the House and Senate on Wednesday amid days of concerns from lawmakers that Trump was on a path to war with Iran, which on Tuesday night launched missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
Lee said the officials warned that Congress would “embolden” Iran if lawmakers debated Trump’s war powers.
“I find this insulting and demeaning … to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting and demeaning to the Constitution of the United States,” Lee said.
Lee did not say which briefer made the assertion, but specified that no administration representative contradicted them. He added that he was going to have a “conversation” with Trump about the remarks.
“I find that absolutely insane. I think that’s unacceptable,” Lee added.
Paul added that he found the briefing “less than satisfying,” and knocked the administration for using the 2002 Iraq war authorization [AUMF] as the basis for last week’s airstrike against an Iranian general.
“I see no way in the world you could logically argue that an authorization to have war with Saddam Hussein has anything to with having war with people currently in Iraq,” Paul told reporters.
He added that using the 2002 authorization to justify the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad was “absurd” and an “insult.”
“Let’s have the debate, and let’s have some senators stand up,” Paul said.
The briefing comes as the House is set to vote on a resolution on Thursday that would force Trump to end hostilities against Iran unless he gets specific authorization from Congress.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has introduced a similar resolution that is set for a vote on the Senate floor as soon as next week.
Lee said that he had not seen the House resolution but was open to considering it.
“After today, every time they pull a stunt like this I’m willing to consider and introduce any and every war powers act resolution,” he said.
Both GOP senators were undecided on Kaine’s resolution before the briefing, but announced afterward that they are now supporting the measure. Democrats need four GOP votes to pass the resolution checking Trump’s authority.
“I can say that after that briefing — that briefing is what changed my mind. … 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,” Lee added.
Democrats were equally ‘utterly unpersuaded’ by evidence behind Soleimani strike:
Democrats said Wednesday that the Trump administration failed to present evidence supporting the claim that a top Iranian general killed in a U.S. drone strike was planning an imminent attack.
The frustration boiled over after back-to-back closed-door briefings on the strike that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the evidence represented a “far cry” from an imminent attack, while Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) called the briefing “sophomoric.”
“I was utterly unpersuaded about any evidence about the imminence of a threat that was new or compelling,” Connolly said.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration did not provide clarity on a potential attack and questioned why they were withholding information from Congress.
“I walk away unsatisfied in the key questions that I went into this briefing with, and it just makes me concerned that we cannot have clarity on those key questions — imminency, target, all of those things,” Menendez said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the administration “did not establish in any way” that “an imminent threat was posed.” Asked whether she was convinced, presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said flatly “no.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations panel, appeared skeptical that the administration had evidence that could prove they were responding to an immediate threat and characterized the fallout from the strike so far as “cataclysmic.”
“This appears to me to be a strike of choice by this administration, one that likely would have required congressional authorization beforehand,” Murphy said.
“There are serious political consequences to the decision that was made and we did not get information inside that briefing that there was a specific imminent threat that we were halting under the operation conducted last Thursday night think . …I think it is likely that it doesn’t exist,” he added.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said there are “many” questions left unanswered after the briefing, and wants the same set of officials to come back.
“As the questions began to get tough they walked out,” he said. “I’ve asked for a commitment that they all come back within a week.”
The House will vote Thursday on a resolution to limit President Trump’s ability to take future military action against Iran without congressional authorization, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday afternoon. House to vote Thursday on war powers resolution after Iran attacks:
Pelosi’s statement came after a classified lawmaker briefing from top administration officials following attacks by Iran the night before on two bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops.
The resolution directs the president to end the use of U.S. armed forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran unless Congress has formally authorized it or if there is an “imminent armed attack upon the United States.” It was introduced on Wednesday by freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former CIA analyst who served three tours in Iraq and represents a competitive district.
“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward. Our concerns were not addressed by the President’s insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the Administration’s briefing today,” Pelosi said.
“Today, to honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran,” Pelosi added.
Progressives have also been pushing Democratic leaders to hold votes on two additional bills. One from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) would prohibit funding for offensive military force in or against Iran without prior authorization from Congress while the other, from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), would repeal the 2002 authorization of military force for the Iraq War.
Moments before Pelosi’s announcement, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus held a press conference calling for votes as soon as this week on the resolution as well as the two bills from Khanna and Lee.
Pelosi said that the House “may” vote on those measures but didn’t commit to a time frame.
“The House may also soon consider additional legislation on the floor to keep America safe,” Pelosi said.
Khanna’s and Lee’s bills had both been included in the House’s version of the annual defense authorization bill last summer. Both the provisions were left out of the final bicameral compromise that Trump signed into law last month.
Lawmakers said Wednesday that they were trying to work something out that ensures Slotkin’s resolution will have a “privileged” status in the Senate and therefore require action by the upper chamber.
They were mindful of an episode last year in which a war powers resolution they believed was privileged, calling for the end of any U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, ran afoul of the Senate rules. The House passed the measure, but after House Republicans successfully added an unrelated provision condemning anti-Semitism, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it was not germane and therefore couldn’t automatically get a vote.
The House had to later conduct a second vote on the Yemen resolution, which the Senate later cleared. But Trump vetoed the measure, which ultimately did not secure the two-thirds majority to override his opposition.
“The Speaker and others have learned from that experience,” Khanna, who also led the Yemen effort last year, said shortly before Slotkin’s resolution was unveiled. “Everyone is working to make sure that whatever we come up with gets a vote in the Senate, because if it’s de-privileged, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] won’t bring it up.”
Once the House passes the resolution, the Senate would have to take it up within 10 days and would only need a simple majority to reach Trump’s desk. But the resolution appears unlikely to succeed in the Senate, where most Republicans have rallied behind Trump’s actions in Iran.
Democrats remained steadfast in their support for voting on the resolution after Iran claimed credit for attacks on two bases in Iraq housing U.S. military personnel Tuesday night in retaliation for the Trump administration killing a top general, Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike last week. No casualties were reported in Tuesday’s attacks.
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Democrats said they were dissatisfied by the Trump administration’s presentation during the classified briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The briefers included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
“If there is evidence there, we have not seen it. There was no raw intelligence that was presented to us,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said at a press conference after the briefing. “We continue to see that this seems to be just a reckless action of a president who believes he can act without congressional authority.”
Call your members of Congress now in support of these war powers resolutions. The Constitution gives the power over war to the Congress, not a rogue “imperial president” seeking a war to distract from his impeachment and to use as a campaign theme. Trump Is Running Hundreds Of Facebook Ads Praising Himself For The Killing Of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. This is abuse of power.
MoveOn.org, Indivisible and About Face Veterans Against The War have organized the nationwide event on Thursday, January 9 calling for #NoWarWithIran.
“Trump’s reckless action has needlessly endangered countless lives of U.S. troops, Iraqis, Iranians, and countless other civilians,” says the official event page. “The devastation that a war with Iran could bring upon the earth and humanity cannot be overstated—millions of lives hang in the balance. None of us will win, except politicians and corporations.
“We’ve learned our lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and global endless war,” continued the post. “We will not be driven by lies into another war. We will not allow our Iranian-American and Muslim neighbors to be targeted by law enforcement. We will not be divided.”
The House voted 224-to-194 on Thursday to prevent President Trump from taking additional military action against Iran, an opening move in a Democratic-led campaign to reassert congressional authority over the use of force abroad. [T]hree Republicans and a Republican-turned-independent endorsED the resolution. Eight Democrats opposed the measure, which instructs Trump “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress declares war or there is “an imminent armed attack upon the United States.”
But the critical forum is the Senate, where Democrats are in the minority and will need the help of at least four Republicans to pass a similar war powers resolution. Put forward by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the measure could come up for a vote as early as next week.
Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) have committed to supporting Kaine’s resolution, fuming to reporters Wednesday that administration officials had failed to specify when, if ever, they might seek Congress’s approval for military strikes.
Lee complained that officials had instead communicated that lawmakers “need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public.” He has called that position “absolutely insane” and “unacceptable.”
Procedurally, it is likely that the House will have to take up the Senate’s resolution, should it pass in that chamber, in order to send Trump a war powers resolution that has the weight of potential law. It is also extremely likely that, should they succeed, the president will veto it — and that Congress will not be able to muster enough votes to override that veto —
— because of sycophant Republicans in the personality cult of Donald Trump. For Trump’s Republican defenders, is there such a thing as too much presidential power?