Rand Paul, Mike Lee rip administration over 'insulting and demeaning' Iran briefing

GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases MORE (Utah) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle MORE (Ky.) ripped the administration over a closed-door briefing on Iran on Wednesday, announcing they will now support a resolution reining in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' MORE's military powers. 

Lee, speaking to reporters after a roughly hourlong closed-door meeting with administration officials, characterized it as "the worst briefing I've seen, at least on a military issue."

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Top general says military must take 'hard look' at Confederate symbols on installations | Milley vows to 'get to bottom' of Russia bounty intel | Woman to join Green Berets for first time Top general vows to 'get to the bottom' of Russia bounty intel Top general: US military needs to take 'hard look' at Confederate symbols MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIn Russian bounty debate, once again this administration lacks intelligence Trump administration sanctions Chinese officials over human rights abuses WHO sets up independent panel to assess global coronavirus response MORE, CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Top intelligence officials to brief Gang of Eight on Thursday MORE 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. 

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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 war authorization as the basis for last week's airstrike against an Iranian general.

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"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 Gen. 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 KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineFinger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (D-Va.) has introduced a similar resolution that is set for a vote on the Senate floor as soon as next week.

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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.

Trump said in a Wednesday morning address to the nation that Iran "appears to be standing down" following weeks of escalating tensions that included an assault on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq by militia forces backed by Tehran.

“I’m pleased to inform you, the American people should be extremely grateful and happy. No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,” Trump said in remarks from the Grand Foyer of the White House.

“Our great American forces are prepared for anything,” he continued. “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world."