'Absolutely insane': Republican senators turn on Trump over Iran briefing

'It was probably the worst briefing I've seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate,' GOP lawmaker says

Harriet Sinclair
Thursday 09 January 2020 12:06 GMT
Mike lee calls Soleimani briefing “worst I've seen, at least on a military issue, in 9 years I've served in the Senate'

Two Republican senators historically loyal to Donald Trump have condemned a classified briefing on Iran as “insulting and demeaning”.

Utah senator Mike Lee claimed Wednesday’s meeting on the airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on military issues”, while Kentucky senator Rand Paul described the information as nothing “I hadn’t seen in a newspaper already”.

“In the briefing and in public, this administration has argued that the vote to topple Saddam Hussein in 2002 applies to military action in Iraq. That is absurd,” Mr Paul said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“Nobody in their right mind, with a straight face, with an ounce of honesty, can argue when Congress voted to go after Saddam Hussein in 2002, that authorised military force against an Iranian general 18 years later.”

Both allies of the president, Mr Paul and Mr Lee joined Democratic senators in dismissing the closed-door briefing as unsatisfactory, and questioning the justification for the attack .

"It was probably the worst briefing I've seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate," Mr Lee told reporters following the briefing, given by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mark Milley, CIA director, Gina Haspel; the defense secretary Mark Esper; secretary of state, Mike Pompeo; and acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.

“I find this insulting and demeaning. They had to leave after 75 minutes while they’re in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public. I find that absolutely insane. I think it's unacceptable.”

The briefing prompted both Mr Lee and Mr Paul to publicly announce their plans to back a Democratic proposal to invoke the War Powers Resolution, which would limit Mr Trump’s ability to launch military action against Iran without signoff from Congress.

However, the Republican senators stopped short of breaking with the president entirely, both praising his decision to dial down further threats to Iran – in a Wednesday address that aimed to deescalate the situation.

American strength, the president said , was the best deterrent. “The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it," he added, also announcing increased economic sanctions that would be removed only when Iran “changed its behaviour”.

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