Rand Paul fires back after Graham accuses Paul, Utah’s Lee of ’empowering enemy’ by opposing Soleimani strike

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., accused Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., of cloaking himself in a fake “drape of patriotism” Wednesday after Graham alleged that Paul and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., “were empowering the enemy” by trying to limit President Trump’s ability to further escalate tensions with Iran.

Paul and Lee both announced after a closed-door meeting with Trump administration officials that they would support the “War Powers Resolution” introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrati and member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees who also served as Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016.

The resolution seeks to limit Trump’s power to further escalate tensions with Iran, without first obtaining congressional approval, after Trump ordered the U.S. airstrike that killed top Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week in Baghdad.

“They’re libertarians. I think they’re overreacting, quite frankly,” Graham told reporters of Paul and Lee after their news conference. “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 … whether you mean to or not, you’re empowering the enemy.”

Later, Paul called Graham’s remarks a “gutter type of response” and recommended that Graham re-read what the Constitution says regarding war powers divided between the commander-in-chief and the Legislative Branch, in an interview on CNN.

“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,” Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “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 we’re not as patriotic as he is — he hasn’t 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. I think that’s a low, gutter type of response.”

Paul also responded to remarks made by Lee who claimed in their joint news conference that defense and intelligence officials told GOP members of Congress to be “good little boys and girls” when it comes to Trump’s foreign policy decisions with Iran.

“To me, this is much bigger than the Trump administration,” Paul continued. “This question we have about who has the war-making power, this goes back to Truman in 1950. We fought war after war, the Korean War, the Vietnam war, without having them authorized by Congress.

“It’s been a tug-of-war. Many people have written that Congress and senators have abdicated their role in declaring war. That’s true. What Senator Lee and I are doing is standing up and saying the power resides in Congress and we’re going to fight for it.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley briefed members of both the House and Senate in a closed-door meeting Wednesday after days of heightened tensions with Iran stemming from the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani and other Iranian officials at Baghdad International Airport last week.

Then early Wednesday, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. service members in a failed retaliatory attack thwarted by the U.S. military’s Early Warning Systems.

“They had to leave after 75 minutes, while they’re in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public. I find that absolutely insane. I think it’s unacceptable,” Lee said in a news conference after the meeting.

“I went in there hoping to get more specifics as far as the factual, legal, moral obligation for what they did,” Lee continued. “I’m still undecided on that issue because in part they never got to the details. Every time they got close they’d say ‘well, we can’t discuss that here because it’s really sensitive. … We’re in a secure underground bunker where all electronic devices have to be checked at the door, and they still refuse to tell us. I find that really upsetting.”

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