Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) was furious Wednesday following a classified congressional briefing from administration officials about the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week, saying that what he heard was "insulting and demeaning" to the Constitution.
Speaking to reporters after the briefing, Lee said 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." He explained that the biggest problem he had with the briefing was what he and others were told by the people giving it.
"What I found so distressing about that briefing was that 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," Lee said. "And that if you do, you'll be emboldening Iran, the implication being that we would somehow be making America less safe by having a debate or a discussion about the appropriateness of further military involvement against the government of Iran."
"I find this insulting and demeaning, not personally, but to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold," Lee said.
"I find it insulting and I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States to which we've all sworn an oath; it is, after all the prerogative of the legislative branch to declare war," he added, citing Congress' powers described in Article 1 of the Constitution.
"When we send our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines into harm's way, we owe the American people the decent courtesy to follow the Constitution, to debate and discuss these actions," Lee continued. "For them to tell us through either a war powers act resolution or otherwise, for us to debate and discuss these things on the Senate floor would somehow weaken the American cause and embolden Iran in any other actions, I find very insulting."
Lee went on to say that he hoped to be told that he heard incorrectly, but he said that none of the other briefers present objected to the message. When asked by a reporter who in the room made the remarks, Lee explained that he would like to talk to the president before commenting on that publicly "so I can make him aware of what we were told and by whom."
Toward the beginning of his remarks, Lee said that he supports President Donald Trump and the "manner in which he has approached his commander-in-chief powers," saying that "more than any other president in my lifetime, President Trump has shown a lot of restraint, he's been reluctant to get us involved in wars all over the globe."
As a result of what transpired during Wednesday's briefing, Lee said he now has decided to back a resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to restrict the executive branch's potential military action on Iran, noting that Kaine had agreed to amendments that they had previously discussed.
"That briefing is what changed my mind [on the resolution]," Lee said. "I walked into the briefing undecided; I walked out decided."
Lee was joined by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who also said that he was going along with Kaine's effort, saying that "we need to have a debate about separation of powers" when it comes to waging war.
Footage of Lee and Paul's full remarks can be found on C-SPAN.
.@SenMikeLee : "It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch of government…to come in and tell us… https://t.co/G9y6wkYllh— CSPAN (@CSPAN)1578520353.0