President Donald Trump appears to be pushing the United States toward conflict with Iran. Following the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds force, top administration officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — scrambled to offer justifications for the latest round of escalations.
Pence suggested that Soleimani helped carry out the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and Pompeo argued that the assassination is meant to bring about peace and force Iran back to the negotiating table. Amid escalating tensions between the two countries, two dissenting Republican voices have emerged. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah are emerging as vocal critics of the Trump administration's foreign policy, according to The Washington Post.
On Wednesday afternoon, following a briefing on the strike killing Soleimani, Lee unloaded on the administration, describing the meeting as "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." Lee added that he found the briefing "insulting" and "demeaning" to the Constitution, making it clear that he will support congressional efforts to limit Trump's war powers.
Paul turned his attention to Republican operatives and lawmakers, many of whom made a conscious effort to equate opposition to Trump's escalations to supporting the Iranian government. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for instance, accused Paul and Lee of "empowering the enemy." Similarly, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Democrats of mourning Soleimani's death."I think it's sad when people have this fake sort of drape of patriotism, and anybody that disagrees with them is not a patriot," Paul said. "I think that's a low, gutter type of response," the libertarian-leaning senator continued, adding that those equating opposition to war with lack of patriotism "insult" the Constitution.
In previous media interviews, the Kentucky Republican was even more vocal in his criticism, singling out Pompeo by name. The secretary of state, Paul said, is "brain-dead" if he actually thinks Soleimani's murder will improve the relationship between Iran and the United States. On the contrary, according to Paul, the Trump administration's latest actions signify "the death of diplomacy with Iran."
Writing that it is "shameful" that only two Republicans are standing up to Trump, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin concluded the following.
"This episode, we pray, serves as a wake-up call to them and their colleagues as to the dangers posed by an autocratic president and his party lackeys who are content to see him shred the Constitution."Multiple war powers resolutions have been introduced by various Democrats in Congress. On Thursday, as NBC News reported, the House will vote on a resolution put forward by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Via Twitter, Trump urged House Republicans to vote against the measure.Pelosi has indicated that she could also bring up two similar bills meant to limit Trump's power: one by California Rep. Ro Khanna and another by Rep. Barbara Lee.