Nevadans unimpressed with Iran briefing; Pelosi readies war powers resolution

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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley arrive for briefing with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley arrive for briefing with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

If the Trump administration has evidence that Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani was planning an imminent attack against the U.S., administration officials didn’t present it during a congressional briefing Wednesday, according to Nevada members of Congress.

“I’m unsatisfied by the information provided by the Trump Administration at today’s Congressional briefing,” Titus said Wednesday. “President Trump owes the American people – and the U.S. Congress – evidence for the claim that Qasem Soleimani was planning an imminent attack against us,” the congresswoman said, adding she would use her role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee “to demand that evidence.”

In her statement, Titus hammered the Trump administration for having “no long-term strategy” for dealing with Iran.

“Due to the Trump Administration’s foreign policy decisions, Iran is once again on a path to build a nuclear weapon, our anti-ISIS mission in the Middle East has stopped, and our Iraqi allies have lost trust in us. Skillful diplomacy is needed to re-engage our European allies,” Titus said.

Titus was far from the only member of Congress, from both parties, who was less than impressed by Wednesday’s briefing on Iran policy, presented by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials.

“Administration officials abruptly ended today’s classified briefing to Congress about Iran, leaving many questions unanswered,” said Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Those questions, Cortez Masto said, include “Trump’s long-term strategy and objectives for Iran, how he plans to deter Iran from future attacks, and what actions he’ll take to keep U.S. service members and personnel in the region safe.”

Republicans in Congress came away from the briefing equally troubled. After the briefing, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) announced they would support a resolution reining in Trump’s military powers.

Lee called it “the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue,” telling reporters that officials at the briefing warned Congress not to dissent from Trump or debate Trump’s war powers lest Congress emboldens Iran. 

“I find this insulting and demeaning … to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting and demeaning to the Constitution of the United States,” Lee said.

Paul called the briefing “less than satisfying,” adding that using the 2002 use of force authorization to justify the strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad was “absurd” and an “insult,” according to The Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would vote Thursday on a resolution to “limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran.”

“Our concerns were not addressed by the President’s insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the Administration’s briefing today,” Pelosi said Wednesday.

Pelosi said the House may also “soon consider” repeal of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force as well as legislation to prohibit funding for military action against Iran not authorized by Congress.

Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford issued a statement Wednesday supporting repeal of the 2002 Iraq authorization. “The developing situation in Iran makes it more important now than ever for Congress to repeal this outdated resolution, which this administration has continued to use as a blanket authority to engage our country in conflicts of war,” Horsford said.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.