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GOP rep, Democrats exchange heated remarks during Pompeo hearing on Iran

A Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee duked it out with Democrats on Friday in a confrontation over the killing of a top Iranian general during a public hearing on U.S. policy in Iran in which Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo warns any arms sales to Iran will result in sanctions as embargo expires Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of missile strike that killed at least 13 MORE was present. 

Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastWarren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Sen. Rand Paul says he and his wife were 'attacked by an angry mob' after Trump speech Florida Republican apologizes after Facebook posts about sex, rape uncovered MORE (R-Fla.) turned his questions to Democrats during the hearing, taking the focus off of Pompeo, who was asked questions about intelligence the U.S. had that justified the Jan. 3 strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the top general of Iran’s Quds Force.

The confrontation erupted between Mast and his Democratic colleagues when the Republican lawmaker misidentified Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Spanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter Murphy: Russia will become more of a threat to US election while Trump is in quarantine MORE (D-Va.) as “Ms. Lowenthal,” and elicited a biting reaction from Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillinePocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Pelosi suggests Trump setting 'dangerous' example with quick return to White House MORE (D-R.I.) for suggesting Democrats wished that Soleimani was still alive.

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The hearing was Pompeo’s first appearance before the committee since the strike on Soleimani nearly two months earlier, offering lawmakers a chance to question the secretary publicly over the administration’s justification for ordering the strike and its implications.

Spanberger questioned the secretary on Friday, saying, “You gave a classified briefing in Congress, I was there, and you didn’t provide evidence to us about that claimed imminence.”

Mast took issue with the Spanberger’s line of questioning, turning to the chairman and asking, “was it appropriate for Ms. Lowenthal to offer information from a classified setting?” in reference to Spanberger. 

“Who?” the committee members asked. 

Mast continued to hammer Democrats if there was any red line that his colleagues could accept for justification to kill Soleimani.

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“Iran went too far decades ago but the question is whether or not there’s authorization for this particular strike,” Spanberger retorted. 

Democrats also took issue with the allotted time for the hearing, with Pompeo saying he would “not agree to stay for a few extra minutes” in response to a request from Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelIs Trump a better choice for Jewish voters than Biden? Overnight Defense: Trump says he's leaving Walter Reed, 'feeling really good' after COVID-19 treatment | White House coronavirus outbreak grows | Dems expand probe into Pompeo speeches House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo's political speeches MORE (D-N.Y.) to go over the two hours provided.

At one point, Mast also suggested that Democrats wished that Soleimani was still alive. 

“No one on this side wants Soleimani alive, you know better than that, shame on you for even asking that question,” Cicilline shouted at Mast during the hearing. 

Mast, an Army veteran who lost both his legs from an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, said he would issue a report with the ethics committee over alleged publication of classified information.  

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Pompeo sat quietly while Mast questioned his committee colleagues in a heated back-and-forth.   

After the lively discussion, the briefing took wild and often unwieldy tangents, with questions from Democrats focusing largely on the threat of coronavirus in the U.S. and the administration’s preparation to protect the American people. 

“Mr. Secretary, it’s taken you two and a half months to come here before this committee to explain the actions of Jan. 3,” Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanOvernight Defense: Congress recommends nuclear arms treaty be extended | Dems warn Turkey | Military's eighth COVID death identified Democrats warn Turkey over involvement in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict Sherman joins race for House Foreign Affairs gavel MORE (D-Calif.) said. “Today the world faces a worldwide pandemic, the coronavirus. Will you come here next week and explain our international efforts to deal with the coronavirus or will it take two and a half months to have you back here?” 

The secretary had earlier appeared on Capitol Hill on Jan. 8 for a classified briefing to lay out the administration’s argument for taking out Soleimani. Democrats criticized the briefing, saying that it provided no new information and failed to convince them that Iran’s foreign fighting force was preparing an imminent attack against U.S. interests.