Mike Lee is ticked off.
The Republican senior senator from Utah emerged from a classified briefing by the Trump administration on the conflict with Iran denouncing it as, “The worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.”
More from Rolling Stone
- Was Passenger Jet Shot Down In Iran? Trump: 'I Have My Suspicions'
- Republican Congressman Says Democrats 'Are in Love With Terrorists'
- None of Trump's Iran Policy Makes Sense. All of It Is Dangerous
The briefing was intended to inform senators about Trump’s order to assassinate General Qasem Soleimani last week, which in turn sparked a missile attack on Iraqi bases used by U.S. forces. “What we were told, over and over again, was, Look this action was necessary, this was a bad guy we had to do it,” Lee told reporters on camera in the Capitol, admitting he was left “unsatisfied” by the administration’s justifications: “I’d hoped and expected to receive more information outlining the legal, factual, and moral justification for the attack.”
But the Republican was steaming mad about executive branch officials’ message to senators to fall in line behind president and not question military action against the Persian Gulf nation. “One of the messages we received from the briefers,” Lee said, “was, ‘Do not debate. Do not discuss the appropriateness of further military intervention against the Iran — and that if you do you’ll be emboldening Iran.'”
Lee said the administration’s “implication” was that “we’d somehow be making America less safe by having a debate or a discussion.” Citing the legislative branch’s prerogative to debate and declare war, Lee called the briefers’ message, “insulting and demeaning… to the constitution of the United States to which we’ve all sworn an oath.”
Excoriating this overreach by the White House, Lee continued: “It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch of government — I don’t care whether they’re with the CIA, the Department of Defense, or otherwise — to tell us that we can’t debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran. It’s un-American. It’s unconstitutional. And it’s wrong.”
: "It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch of government…to come in and tell us that we can't debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran. It's un-American. It's unconstitutional and it's wrong." pic.twitter.com/fVSE6b3EM0
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 8, 2020
Lee said he’d decided, on the basis of the briefing, to support Democratic Senator Tim Kaine’s War Powers Resolution that would require the Administration to seek congressional approval before widening the conflict with Iran. “I walked into the briefing undecided” on Kaine’s measure, Lee said. “I walked out of the briefing decided.”
The Utah senator insisted it was time for Congress to reassert itself in authorizing the nation’s use of military force. “Drive-by notification by the executive branch, or after-the-fact, lame briefings like the one we just received,” Lee said, “aren’t adequate.”
Best of Rolling Stone
- The Radical Crusade of Mike Pence
- 5 Things You Didn't Know About Marco Rubio
- The 15 Worst Owners in Sports
See where your favorite artists and songs rank on the Rolling Stone Charts.