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 PompeoSchumer slams Trump's Rose Garden briefing on China as 'pathetic' Britain mulls pathway to citizenship for more than 3M inhabitants of Hong Kong Overnight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in MORE was present. 

Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastHouse Republicans push back against proxy voting GOP lawmakers consider returning to DC despite coronavirus shutdown GOP congressman gets round of applause for remarks praising American strength 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 SpanbergerGun control group rolls out House endorsements The Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (D-Va.) as “Ms. Lowenthal,” and elicited a biting reaction from Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting House Democrat to introduce bill cracking down on ad targeting 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 EngelOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog House chairman slams Pompeo for suggesting US could 'disconnect' from Australia over China deal 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 ShermanHouse passes bill that would sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps Dozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Pelosi says House is looking at bill that could delist some Chinese companies from US stock exchanges 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.