The intelligence briefings given by top Trump administration officials to detail the rationale for an airstrike that has led the US to the brink of war with Iran has been derided by members of both parties in the US Capitol, marking a rare breach of unity in the Republican ranks.
The classified briefings were intended to bring Congress out of the dark on the justification for the airstrike Donald Trump ordered last week that killed Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s second most powerful figure.
But the briefings from top officials including State secretary Mike Pompeo and Defence secretary Mark Esper were quickly slammed by Democrats and at least two prominent Republicans, one of whom who called it “probably the worst briefing” of his career.
“Now I find this insulting and demeaning, not personally, but to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happen to hold. I find it insulting, and I find it demeaning to the Constitution to which we’ve all sworn an oath. It is after all the prerogative of the legislative branch to declare war,” senator Mike Lee, a Republican, told reporters during a press briefing alongside senator Rand Paul.
Mr Lee added: “What we were told over and over again was, ‘look, this action is necessary, this was a bad guy, we had to do it and we can’t have division. We can’t have division within our ranks, within our government, otherwise it sends a wrong signal to the Iranians’. And I just, I think that’s completely wrong.”
Mr Lee joined in with many Democrats in decrying the classified briefings, with senator Chuck Schumer saying the Trump administration officials couldn’t handle the heat in the briefing room.
“As the questions began to get tough, they walked out,” the New York Democrat said. “There were so many important questions that they did not answer.”
Gerry Connolly, a Democrat in the House of Representatives, described the meeting as particularly unhelpful.
“Without commenting on content, my reaction to this briefing was it was sophomoric and utterly unconvincing and I believe that more than ever the Congress needs to act to protect the constitutional provisions about war and peace,” he said.
“I believe the administration is after the fact trying to piece together a rationale for its action that was impulsive, reckless and put this country’s security at risk,” he added.
The Trump administration has not made public its full rationale for the airstrike last week, but has said the attack was ordered after Mr Trump determined that an attack against Americans was "imminent".