Sen. Cotton repeats coronavirus origins conspiracy theory
Rand Paul, Mike Lee rip administration over 'insulting and demeaning' Iran briefing
GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) ripped the administration over a closed-door briefing on Iran on Wednesday, announcing they will now support a resolution reining in President Trump'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 Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel 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.
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.
"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 Kaine (D-Va.) has introduced a similar resolution that is set for a vote on the Senate floor as soon as next week.
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."