A classified briefing for senators — in which Donald Trump administration officials were supposed to offer evidence to justify the drone attack that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani — left a pair of conservative Republicans outraged, with one saying that the briefing was “insulting.”
Utah Republican Mike Lee called the session “the worst briefing” he’d ever received, and said that he objected especially to administration officials instructions to senators that they should not publicly debate the president’s reasons for ordering the assassination of Soleimani, according to a report by CBS News.
“They had to leave after 75 minutes while they’re in the process of telling us we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public,” Lee recounted. “I find that absolutely insane. I think it’s unacceptable.”
As a result of the briefing, Lee said that he had changed his mind and would now support a Democrat-sponsored War Powers resolution requiring Trump to obtain congressional approval before taking any further military action against Iran. The resolution is sponsored by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.
“Only Congress should decide” whether the U.S. should go to war against Iran, “not the President,” Kaine said on Wednesday, as quoted by NBC News.
Fox News cut away from Republican Sen. Mike Lee as he excoriated the Trump admin’s Soleimani briefing as “probably the worst briefing at least on a military issue I’ve seen.” pic.twitter.com/736Qtd6bWZ— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 8, 2020
The classified briefings were given by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and CIA Director Gina Haspel, and were offered to all 535 members of Congress, across both the House and Senate. But “Democrats and a few Republicans” came away saying that the officials had simply offered no evidence that Soleimani posed an “imminent threat” to U.S. interests or personnel, according to a Reuters report.
“The basic theme of it was the administration essentially saying: ‘Trust us,'” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Elliot Engel told reporters after receiving the Iran briefing, as quoted by Reuters.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House of Representatives would vote on the War Powers Resolution as soon as Thursday. If passed, the resolution would require Trump to cease all use of the American military against Iran — unless Congress either approves a declaration of war, or at least a measure authorizing the use of force.
Lee and Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who also said that the briefing left him now in support of the Democrats War Powers Resolution, appeared to be in the minority among Republicans coming out of the briefings, however. Idaho Senator Jim Risch told reporters that the briefing was one of the best he ever attended, according to Reuters.