Republican senator Mike Lee blasts the Trump administrations post-Iran briefing, says they were told they could not dissent from Trump, couldn't debate it, and if Trump needed justification to go to war "I'm sure we could think of something" pic.twitter.com/bfyPqoSf8c— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) January 8, 2020
"I find it insulting and I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States," Lee said, adding, “It’s un-American. It’s unconstitutional. And it’s wrong. ... They are appearing before a coordinate branch of government responsible for their funding, for their confirmation, for any approval of any military action they might take. They had to leave after 75 minutes while they were in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this in public. I find that to be absolutely insane.” He also made clear that because of the briefing he would now join in a war-powers resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
It is not surprising that the administration gives the same dismissive and insulting lecture behind closed doors that it delivers in public when it’s imperious attitude is called into question. What is stunning is that with the exceptions of Lee and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), no other Republicans are speaking up. Paul said, “Today … Sen. Lee and I are stepping up and saying we are not abdicating our duty.” Unfortunately, the other 51 Republicans in the Senate are doing exactly that.
As though to prove Lee’s point that President Trump’s dictatorial style is unbecoming of a democracy, the sycophantic Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) whined that Lee and Paul were “overreacting.” Modeling himself Trump, he sneered, “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.”
Paul retorted, "I think it’s sad when people have this fake sort of drape of patriotism, and anybody that disagrees with them is not a patriot.“ His remarks would apply to Trump and his boosters, such as former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who falsely accused Democrats of mourning Soleimani’s death.
Paul continued, “I love my country. I have many family members that serve in the military and continue to serve. I love my country as much as the next guy. For him to insult and say that somehow we’re not as patriotic as he is — he hasn’t even read the Constitution … he insults the Constitution, our Founding Fathers, and what we do stand for in this republic by making light of it and accusing people of lacking patriotism.” He added, “I think that’s a low, gutter type of response.”
There are several points worth underscoring.
First, it is shameful that only two Republican senators take their constitutional duties seriously. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds a vote on war powers on Thursday, it will be interesting to see whether there are any House Republicans willing to speak up. Second, I truly hope Paul and Lee now speak up when the administration delivers the same “gutter type” of response to Democrats and when Trump and his lackeys insists that Democrats who want to know the factual and constitutional basis for his actions are being disloyal. Perhaps they will start a bipartisan trend to defend their institutional prerogatives. Third, Lee and Paul should show the same respect for their roles as members of an equal branch of government in the impeachment process, holding the president to account for his abuse of power and insisting that the Senate conduct a fair trial with witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton, who is now ready to testify.
The Constitution is not a smorgasbord from which you can select certain items and bypass others; the same Constitution that allocates the power to declare war to Congress requires the senators in an impeachment trial to take a separate oath of office (which requires them to render “impartial justice.") The same Constitution requires the president to use his powers solely for the benefit of the country and not his personal or political interests.
If Lee and Paul are concerned that Trump thinks he can do whatever he pleases, they should take seriously the articles of impeachment and the facts that support them — which include evidence of Trump’s illegal attempt to impound congressional funds, his refusal to allow witnesses to testify or to turn over relevant documents, as well as his use of his office to extort an ally into giving him political help. This episode, we pray, serves as a wake-up call to them and their colleagues as to the dangers posed by an autocratic president and his party lackeys who are content to see him shred the Constitution.