Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview Thursday that, despite the media’s portrayal of his comments, the “worst” military briefing he ever received was the deceptive briefing on the 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate.
Many establishment media outlets portrayed Lee’s comments on Wednesday as being critical of President Trump’s foreign policy after a heated conversation during a classified briefing on the strike against Iranian top military commander Qasem Soleimani.
To the contrary, Lee said that he supports the legal and moral justification for striking Soleimani and that he believes the worst military briefing was the Barack Obama administration’s briefing on the 2012 Benghazi consulate attack.
Lee told Breitbart News, “I want to be very clear, my comments yesterday did not take a position on the appropriateness of the attack that occurred. They were not condemning that; in fact, I acknowledged upfront that I’m willing to concede that they might well have been legally, morally, justifiable and fully constitutional.”
“I mentioned yesterday that it was probably the worst briefing I have ever seen on a military issue. The reason I qualify it that way is that the worst briefing I ever got in that room was on a slightly different issue back in 2012 right after the Benghazi attack, where we were told repeatedly by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was based on a reaction to a video, so, fortunately, this was not that.”
Lee added that the Trump administration officials that briefed Congress are “good people. They’re hard-working. They’re well-intentioned. And, so I don’t think they [the Trump officials] were trying to deceive us, but I think some of what they said was emblematic of Congress’s willingness to relinquish its war powers, and that’s an issue.”
The Utah conservative charged that he believes that Trump has been one of the most non-interventionist presidents in modern history, saying that he has done the most to avoid unnecessary wars.
Lee explained that he thinks Trump “has been more respectful of the Constitutional separation of powers particularly in this context and restrained in his use of his commander in chief power more than any other modern president, not just in modern history but in my lifetime.”
Citing Syria, Iran, and North Korea, Lee said that Trump “has declined to get us in conflict, where most or all or all other modern presidents would have gotten us involved.”
“I have great respect and appreciation for the president for that reason, I think he’s fantastic, and I applaud his efforts. I think those briefing the Senate yesterday were not carrying the same level of respect for the process as he does. That’s unfortunate for him,” Lee added.
Lee is an advocate for Trump’s vision for an America First foreign policy, in which the country intervenes less abroad and focuses more on rebuilding America.
The senator said that he backed Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) War Powers Act resolution; he said the United States should only engage in further hostilities with Iran with congressional approval or a declaration of war. Lee said that he moved strike language from Kaine’s resolution that disparages the president.
Lee said that he asked to take provisions out of the resolution that “were unduly critical of the president” or disapproving of Trump’s strike against Soleimani.
The senior Utah senator said that he believes Congress needs to reassert its role in declaring war with the War Powers Act to prevent unnecessary wars and to force a public debate on whether the country should spend its blood and treasure on foreign expeditions.
Lee said, “The reason I think we need to do this [War Powers resolution] is consistent with the president’s desire to keep us out of excessive, unnecessary wars. The founding fathers had the same vision; their vision was that you make it harder to enter war by requiring the express consent of the bicameral legislature and you don’t vest it solely in the executive. It makes it harder to go into a war, and you also force an open, public debate and discussion on the war and that you won’t get into war unless there is substantial support from the American people.”
Lee added that he remains hopeful of Trump’s call for a better Iran nuclear deal.
“I would love to see a deal that would do that [establish diplomacy with Iran]. The one we had before was bad. It set a very low bar,” he said.