Sen. Lindsey Graham believes some of his GOP colleagues are “overreacting” in their criticism of the Trump administration’s briefing on Iran.
The South Carolina Republican was asked by CNN reporter Manu Raju about the backlash from Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky following the briefing Wednesday on the Trump-ordered airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last week.
Just asked Graham about the criticism from Paul and Lee over Iran briefing. “I think they’re overreacting. I’m going to let people know ..to play this game with the war powers act, which I think is unconstitutional, is that whether you mean to or not, you’re empowering the enemy” pic.twitter.com/pnlISwkORb
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 8, 2020
“I think there was a lot of concern about a game plan,” Graham said from a Capitol Hill hallway, dismissing the concerns from Lee and Paul, noting they are “libertarians.”
“The Department of Defense made a compelling case. I think they have all the legal authority that they need to hit Soleimani,” he added, referring to the briefing led by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
Democrats, predictably, were frustrated by the classified military briefing, claiming there was not enough evidence of the threat the Iranian general posed while questioning the legal justification for the airstrike. But Lee and Paul joined the critics with an overreaction that Fox Business host Lou Dobbs called a “snit fit” as the Utah lawmaker railed against the way Trump Cabinet officials handled the briefing.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) January 9, 2020
Graham defended the officials for ending the briefing without getting into a debate over the War Powers Act, as he said this could have sent a wrong message to Iranians.
“I think they’re overreacting, quite frankly,” Graham told Raju.
“Go debate all you want to. I’m going to debate you. Trust me, I’m going to let people know that, at this moment in time, to play this game with the War Powers Act, which I think is unconstitutional, is that whether you mean to or not, you’re empowering the enemy,” Graham said. “I know you don’t mean to, but we live in the real world here.”
Paul fired back at his colleague on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” denouncing Graham’s comments as a “low gutter type of response,” and saying the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman “insults the Constitution and founding fathers.”
“He hasn’t even read the history of the Constitution,” the Kentucky lawmaker said.
“[Lindsey Graham] hasn’t even read the history of the Constitution… he believes in this unitary theory of the executive that Presidents can do whatever they want.” – Sen. Rand Paul reacts to Sen. Graham commenting that he is “empowering the enemy” with the War Powers Resolution. pic.twitter.com/NSi2Nys23G
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) January 9, 2020
Graham defended the explanation of the “imminent threat” posed by Soleimani in another question posed by reporters.
“So in terms of whether there’s an imminent threat, General Milley was compelling and chilling about what was going to happen and what had happened,” the congressman said.
“So I think a third-grader could have believed that there was an imminent threat coming from the man that we killed because the man we killed was a walking threat. He dedicated his life to killing Americans and he was up to no good again,” Graham added.
“Compelling and chilling isn’t the same as specific,” one reporter pushed back. “Does the administration not have a duty to disclose some of what they know specifically when they come to Congress?”
“The way we found this out we’ll never tell anybody,” Graham quipped, “because it was magical and we’re not going to compromise it.”
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