Sen. Mike Lee explains outburst after 'worst military briefing': Officials had 'flippant attitude' toward lawmakers

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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told reporters Wednesday that White House officials delivered the "worst military briefing" he had ever seen on Capitol Hill, even claiming that one official had warned during the "lame" and "insane" meeting that Congress shouldn't debate whether additional military action against Iran would be appropriate.

Lee discussed his outburst on "The Story" Wednesday and broke down his grievances with the briefing on the U.S. decision to kill Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike last week, as well as Iran's rocket attacks Tuesday evening targeting U.S. bases in Iraq.

"As to the substance of the strike itself on Friday with General Soleimani, he was a bad guy," Lee told host Martha MacCallum. "I have yet to take a position on that. I was hoping to reach a conclusion as to the logical, legal, constitutional, and moral justification today. I didn’t feel like I got my question answered."


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Lee said that while he assumes that the killing of Soleimani "may have been legally justifiable," it was the "flippant attitude" of those conducting the closed-door briefing -- a group that included Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley -- that drove him to speak out.

"What I'm concerned about is the flippant attitude that they reflected, both with regard to the underlying facts on Friday's attack and especially as they relate moving forward to any subsequent attack that we might undertake on Iran," Lee said.


"There was a dismissive attitude, one that was displayed in such a way that resulted in them saying, 'We can't identify what circumstances in which we would need to come back to Congress to get approval or authorization,'" he continued. "That is antithetical to the Constitution."

Lee made clear that his criticism did not extend to the White House's Iran policy in general, but he warned that the slapdash sit-down would have consequences.

"I support President Trump. I support the way that he has wielded his powers as commander in chief. I think he's actually been the most respectful of all presidents during my lifetime of the commander-in-chief power," Lee said. "I think the people who briefed the Senate today did him a grave disservice."

"They told us there would be an imminent attack had they not taken this strike on Friday which, again, for purposes of this conversation, I'm willing to assume may well have been lawful," Lee added "What is the nature of that attack? When would that have occurred? Who would've carried it out? They refused to answer the question."

Lee also responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C who said lawmakers criticizing the briefing were "overreacting" and that "playing" with the war powers act at a moment like this would "empower the enemy."


"That's fundamentally antithetical to the constitution," Lee fired back. "Look, I love Lindsey Graham. He's a fantastic guy, we work closely on a lot of issues. He's dead wrong to suggest this is playing a game ... the Constitution of the United States is not a game."