Democrats accuse Donald Trump’s aides of being ‘profoundly unconvincing’ in briefing

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Two Republican senators came out of a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill saying they would support a War Powers resolution that would limit President Donald Trump’s ability to act in regards to Iran.

‘That briefing is what changed my mind. That briefing is what brought me on board,’ Senator Mike Lee told reporters after it concluded. ‘I’m now going to support it. I walked into that briefing undecided and I walked out of that briefing decided specifically because of what happened in that briefing.’

He said a request by administration officials to not debate Trump’s action in Iran in public is what pushed him over the edge. 

He wouldn’t say what officials made the request by the briefing was conducted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, and CIA Director Gina Haspel.

‘They had to leave after 75 minutes while in they’re in the process of telling us we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this in public. I find that absolutely insane,’ Lee said. 

‘One of the messages we received from the briefers was do not debate, do not discuss the issue of the appropriateness of further military intervention against Iran, and if you do, you’ll be emboldening Iran,’ Lee added. ‘I find this insulting and demeaning.’ 

It is not acceptable for executive branch to tell us ‘we can’t debate the appropriateness of military intervention in Iran. It’s unAmerican, it’s unconstitutional and it’s wrong,’ the senator from Utah noted.

Lee called the briefing ‘probably the worst briefing at least on a military issue I’ve seen.’ 

‘The administration was ill-served by this briefing today,’ Lee said. 

His fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul agreed.

‘I join Senator Lee in also deciding to support the War Powers resolution,’ he said.

He said the administration’s request lawmakers not to debate military action in public as ‘particularly insulting.’

‘I think we need to debate about separation of powers,’ he said.

Both men stated they support President Trump politically but could not in this matter. 

Lee said he wanted to speak to the president about what he heard in the briefing. 

The two senators said they would support Sen. Tim Kaine’s version of the War Powers resolution that he introduced on Friday, on the heels of the U.S. strike that killed Soleimani.

The Senate version differs from the version of the War Powers resolution that the House will vote on Thursday in that it includes a timeline, saying U.S. forces must disengage from hostilities against Iran ‘by not later than the date that is 30 days after the date of enactment of this joint resolution unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force.’

The text of the resolution also points out that Trump has stated in the past that he believes he has the authority to initiate military action against Iran without Congressional approval.

‘The question of whether the United States forces should be engaged in armed conflict against Iran should only be made following a full briefing of Congress and the American public of the issues at stake, a public debate in Congress, and a congressional vote as contemplated by the Constitution,’ the resolution says.   

After 10 days, Kaine can force a vote on his motion in the Senate.  

Trump officials spent most of Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill, giving separate briefings to House and Senate lawmakers on the administration’s justification for the killing of Soleimani. 

‘I thought we had a good set of briefings today,’ Esper told DailyMail.com.

But Chuck Schumer accused them of walking out of a closed-door briefing on the president’s decision to kill Iranian General Qassem Soleimani when the questions got ‘tough.’

‘We had 97 senators there, 15 began to ask questions, the questions began to get tough and they walked out,’ Schumer said Wednesday. 

Several Democratic lawmakers came out of the briefings unconvinced by Trump’s decision to kill the head of intelligence and security matters for Iran. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said she was unconvinced by anything she heard in the nearly hour briefing for senators.

‘This was a Trump made crisis,’ she said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called the briefing ‘inadequate.’

‘I would say I didn’t come away convince,’ noted Sen. Jon Tester. 

House Democrats also left their closed-door briefing unconvinced. 

‘I leave more troubled than when I went into it,’ Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia told reporters afterward. ‘I will characterize my overall impression, which was profoundly unconvincing.’

Multiple House Democrats said the briefing was vague and offered no justification for killing Soleimani.

They also said the officials offered no details on what kind of attack Soleimani was planning.

Trump officials had said Soleimani was caught ‘red-handed’ planning a threat against the United States and that is why President Donald Trump ordered him killed. 

‘The fact of the matter is, Soleimani was caught red-handed on the ground in Baghdad, one terrorist leader of a terrorist organization meeting with another terrorist leader to synchronize and plan additional attacks on American forces, diplomats and facilities,’ Esper said on CNN Tuesday.

Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, a retired Marine who served four tours in Iraq, said the Trump officials were ‘grossly unspecific’ about what threats were posed to the United States. 

‘They made some very vague statements but were grossly unspecific,’ he said in a response to a question from DailyMail.com after the briefing. 

‘Everything in that briefing confirmed all of my concerns and fears about this administration’s complete lack of a strategy for what’s going forward,’ he noted.

Moulton said the administration officials were not on the same page about their justification for Soleimani’s death.

‘When the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense separately cited their three points of Iran strategy where they didn’t even line up. And they’re sitting right next to each other,’ he said. ‘It is abundantly clear they have no strategy for what comes next.’

Lawmakers coming out of the nearly one hour briefing said the officials first gave their presentation and then took questions from the members of Congress.

The first was on the legal justification of the attack. Democrats have complained President Trump should have consulted Congress before he took such an action.

‘The administration has not offered a remotely sufficient justification for the legal basis of this action,’ Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said.

‘Article II,’ Connolly said when asked the administration’s justification. ‘Last time I checked to get to Article II you’ve gotta look at Article I.’

Article II of the U.S. Constitution deals with executive powers while Article I describes the power of Congress, which includes the right to declare war. 

‘The basic Constitutional design is that Congress declares war because the framers of the Constitution saw that the princes and kings were plunging their nations into wars of ambition and political advantage in order to distract their populations from political problems,’ Raskin said. ‘And the framers had a lot of wisdom in vesting the war power in Congress and we should get back to that original Constitutional notion.’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday Democrats would bring a War Powers resolution to the House floor this week to limit the president’s ability to act in regards to Iran.   

‘When we’re ready we’ll make that announcement,’ the speaker said after the briefing. 

As Pompeo and others were briefing the senators, Pelosi put out a statement saying the vote would come the next day. 

‘Today, to honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran,’ Pelosi said. ‘This resolution, which will be led by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, will go to the Rules Committee this evening and will be brought to the Floor tomorrow.’ 

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