That’s weird. The “never met an intervention they didn’t like” caucus in the GOP seemed to like it just fine.
Natl Security officials gave a compelling briefing to Senators just now. They answered every important question.
Anyone who walks out & says they aren’t convinced action against #Soleimani was justified is either never going to be convinced or just oppose everything Trump does.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 8, 2020
It’s less weird that a White House that expects, and almost always receives, unquestioning loyalty from congressional Republicans would expect it in this matter too.
The clip that follows is something else, though. Background: Democrat Tim Kaine has introduced a resolution in the Senate that would bar Trump from waging war on Iran absent explicit authorization from Congress. It’s inspired by the War Powers Resolution, the Vietnam-era bill that sought to limit the president’s power to initiate military conflict unless Congress has given the okay. Mike Lee said he walked into today’s briefing with Mike Pompeo, Mark Esper, and Gina Haspel undecided about whether he’d support the resolution. He walked out 75 minutes not just in favor of it but enthusiastically so. Why? Because someone at the briefing — Pompeo, I’d guess — allegedly suggested that the Senate shouldn’t even debate whether further military action against Iran is appropriate or else Iran would be “emboldened.”
What the hell do we have a Senate for, asked Lee, if not to debate whether war should be declared in a given situation or not? Brace yourself:
: "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. It's un-American. It's unconstitutional and it's wrong." pic.twitter.com/fVSE6b3EM0
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 8, 2020
You don’t often hear “insulting” and “demeaning” tossed around by a senator to describe consultations with aides of a president from his own party. He wasn’t done, though. Later he was asked whether Pompeo et al. had at least reassured him that there was solid intelligence of an imminent attack plotted by Soleimani that justified taking him out without approval from Congress. To the contrary, said Lee:
BREAKING: Sen. Lee, Republican from Utah, heavily criticizes Trump admin.'s briefing for senators today on Iran, saying officials expect Senate to be "good little boys and girls" and not debate in public. pic.twitter.com/9yXIskA0zq
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 8, 2020
Rand Paul corroborated that afterward in an interview:
Here’s Rand Paul telling Wolf Blitzer that the intel the Trump admin cited to justify the Soleimani killing during today’s briefing didn’t go beyond “generalities” and “stuff you’d read in the newspaper” pic.twitter.com/fzabfEDWFo
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 8, 2020
Two U.S. officials briefed on the intel told a NYT reporter this past weekend that it was “razor thin.” Lee and Paul seem to agree. Did Pompeo and the rest waltz into the briefing expecting that Republicans would cover for them afterward no matter how weak the intel was?
I mean, that was a perfectly reasonable assumption given the lengths to which Senate Republicans usually shill for Trump. But they had to know that a pair of libertarians like Lee and Paul who were in the room would feel differently and call BS.
Speaking of Trump shills, here’s one of the worst offenders in Congress reminding everyone after the briefing that there’s no demagoguery he won’t stoop to in service to warmaking by the United States. His point here about “empowering the enemy” by attempting to assert Congress’s war powers is exactly the sort of low-rent jingoism that infuriated Lee in the SCIF.
Just asked Graham about the criticism from Paul and Lee over Iran briefing. “I think they’re overreacting. I’m going to let people know ..to play this game with the war powers act, which I think is unconstitutional, is that whether you mean to or not, you’re empowering the enemy” pic.twitter.com/pnlISwkORb
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 8, 2020
The irony, of course, is that Trump’s instincts run much closer to Lee’s and Paul’s on military intervention than Graham’s. Usually.
As for Kaine’s resolution, it’s noteworthy that Lee is now a yes — sort of. Normally it takes 60 votes for cloture in the Senate, but Kaine’s bill is a “privileged resolution” and therefore requires only 51 to pass. With Lee and Paul and presumably all 47 Democrats on board, Kaine is tantalizingly close to the 51 Schumer would need to get the bill through. (The House will pass its own War Powers measure and reconcile it with Kaine’s eventually.) A bipartisan vote to rebuke Trump’s authority to wage war would be an embarrassment to the president. But … he’s suffered that embarrassment before, again thanks to Lee. And obviously there’s no chance of the Senate and House overriding his inevitable veto of the bill, which would have set up a showdown in court with Trump potentially over the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. Lee’s signing on to what’s effectively a symbolic wrist slap of the president. There are, and will probably always be, too many hawks and/or loyal partisan hacks in both parties to ever produce the two-thirds majorities in both chambers needed to stop a president from waging the war he wants to wage.
In lieu of an exit question, here’s Paul taking it to Graham for his demagoguery.
"[Lindsey Graham] hasn’t even read the history of the Constitution… he believes in this unitary theory of the executive that Presidents can do whatever they want.” – Sen. Rand Paul reacts to Sen. Graham commenting that he is "empowering the enemy" with the War Powers Resolution. pic.twitter.com/NSi2Nys23G
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) January 9, 2020