Paul to Pompeo: You do not have ‘permission’ for war with Iran

Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday warned the Trump administration not to go to war with Iran, at least not without getting permission from Congress.

The libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican spoke directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He asked Pompeo if the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which allowed for U.S. troops to fight entities responsible for the 9/11 attacks and associated forces, included Iran.

Pompeo declined to directly answer the question, saying he’d defer to lawyers, but stated that there is “no doubt there’s a connection” between the Iranian government and al-Qaeda, the terrorist group behind the 2001 attacks.

“You do not have the permission of Congress to go to war with Iran,” Paul responded, while chiding Pompeo for trying to deflect the question. “Only Congress can declare war.”

Pompeo was testifying before the Republican-controlled committee, a session that came the same week the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, prompting concerns about future clashes between the U.S. and Iranian-backed forces.

The hearing was supposed to focus on the Trump administration’s proposal to slash the State Department budget by about a fourth.

Lawmakers from both parties have dismissed the Trump administration’s budget proposal, saying it was a non-starter the way past such Trump plans have been. Instead they zoomed in on other subjects, from the administration’s strategy in Venezuela to its struggles to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Pompeo’s appearance also came amid a shake-up in the administration that has seen the ouster of several top officials at the Department of Homeland Security, a department that frequently works with State on issues such as immigration.

Pompeo, a close confidant of Trump whose own position appears safe, echoed President Donald Trump’s insistence that the rise in the number of migrants from Latin America trying to reach the U.S. has resulted in a crisis along the border.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine