As the U.S. and world continue to reel from President Donald Trump’s abruptly ordered assassination of political leader and top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, two Republican Senators have now come out only barely metaphorically swinging against the Trump administration’s haphazard excuse for a strategy. Following a briefing this week covering the administration’s claimed justification for the strike, Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) denounced the administration’s behavior as completely out of line, because apparently, high-level officials indicated to them in that briefing that, if provoked, they essentially intended to barge ahead with military action with or without Congress.
Describing the briefers, who included high-level officials within the Trump administration, Lee angrily told reporters:
‘What we were told over and over again was look, this action was necessary. This was a bad guy. We had to do it, and we can’t have division, we can’t have dissension within our government, or else it sends the wrong signal to the Iranians. And I think that’s completely wrong! They were asked repeatedly, what, if anything would trigger the need for the administration to come back to Congress for a declaration of war or an authorization for the use of military force. At one point, I believe one of the briefers said something along the lines of — I’m sure we could think of something. But they struggled to identify anything!.. They were asked a number of hypotheticals about a situation in which they’d appropriately have to come ask for authorization from Congress. Not once did they say yes, we’d need to do it.’
Lee explained that one of the briefers apparently told Senators not to worry because they’d be “consulted,” but the Senator noted that “consultation is not necessarily the same thing as an authorization for the use of military force,” adding:
‘Drive-by notification or after-the-fact, lame briefings like the one we just received aren’t adequate.’
This is a stunning statement from GOP Senator Mike Lee (Utah) who just left a classified intelligence briefing on the situation in Iran. pic.twitter.com/XmwscWV7ng
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) January 8, 2020
Lee summarized the Wednesday all-Senators briefing, which followed briefings for Congressional leaders, as the “worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue.”
In an already infamous detail of the Soleimani strike, Congressional leaders were not even consulted before the incident, no matter the easily palpable political and national security ramifications. Days after the strike, the Trump administration got around to their all-Senators briefing this Wednesday — and not only did Lee (and Paul) denounce their rhetoric and behavior, they insisted that they will support a Democratic resolution to limit the president’s war power. After all, he apparently intends to use it with as little oversight as possible.
“I walked into the briefing undecided. I walked out decided,” @SenMikeLee says announcing support for Dem war powers resolution. @RandPaul agrees.
Lee’s words describing briefing: “.. un-American, unconstitutional … wrong … insulting … completely unacceptable.”
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) January 8, 2020
The apparent desperation from the administration masks their apparently completely hollow “justification” for the strike. According to an unclassified version of a White House memo to Congress, the Soleimani assassination was in response to gradually increasing violence from Iran-backed militias — which, of course, is not the same thing as the imminent threat to U.S. interests that the president’s team has claimed.
Here’s the unclassified version of what Trump sent Congress after the hit on Suleimani.
From all we’ve seen, including the redacted parts here and the briefing, the facts do not show an imminent threat.
We must pass a bill making clear Trump can’t start a war without a vote. pic.twitter.com/mUnkLwsph1
— Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) January 9, 2020
The president and his allies like House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) have responded with absolutely outrageous assertions like that their Democratic opponents “love terrorists.”
Disgusting. As US ambassador to Russia, I became accustomed to addressing disinformation Putin propagated about Americans. I never expected that elected Members of Congress would engage in the same, making grotesque false statements about fellow Americans. Stop this nonsense. https://t.co/Y4oif0wv5j
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) January 9, 2020