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McConnell slams Democrats for rushing to "downplay Soleimani's evil"

Iran vows revenge after U.S. kills general
Iran vows revenge after U.S. kills general 03:11

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admonished Democrats for their reactions to the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, accusing them of rushing to "downplay Soleimani's evil while presenting our own president as the villain."

McConnell delivered the rebuke of Senate Democrats during a speech on the Senate floor as lawmakers reconvened in Washington following a two-week recess.

"The Senate is supposed to be the chamber where overheated partisan passions give way to sober judgment," McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said. "Can we not at least wait until we know the facts? Can we not maintain a shred, just a shred, of national unity for five minutes before deepening the partisan trenches?"

McConnell said the full Senate will be receive a briefing Wednesday on the drone strike that killed Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force. The briefing will be led by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The majority leader cited comments from Democratic senators, including Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, regarding Soleimani's death, though he did not mention them by name and accused Democrats of allowing their dislike of President Trump to influence their response to the strike.

"Must Democrats' distaste for this president dominate every thought they express and every decision they make?" McConnell said. "Is that really the seriousness that this situation deserves?"

Mr. Trump ordered the attack that killed Soleimani in Baghdad last week, further inflaming tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Administration officials have said the president's decision was in response to "imminent" threats to U.S. diplomats and military personnel, though the details of those threats are unclear.

The White House sent a formal notification of the strike to Congress on Saturday as required under the War Powers Resolution, but the document was classified, bolstering Democrats' criticism.

The strike has also renewed questions as to whether Mr. Trump had the authority to use lethal force against Soleimani or whether he should have sought congressional authorization. The president said Sunday his tweets would serve as notification to Congress that he will strike Iran if it retaliates against the U.S. for Soleimani's death.

In addition to criticizing Democrats for their reaction to the strike targeting Soleimani, McConnell also accused them of "continuing to play political games with their impeachment of the commander-in-chief."

While the House passed two articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump in December, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not sent the articles to the Senate due to concerns over whether the GOP-controlled chamber will conduct a fair trial.

"House Democrats are treating impeachment like a political toy, treating their own efforts to remove our commander in chief like some frivolous game," McConnell said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for four top White House officials, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify before the Senate during the trial. McConnell, however, has rejected that request and accused Democrats of conducting "bizarre stunts" that "do not serve our Constitution or our national security."

"My Democratic colleagues should not plow away at American unity in some bizarre, intramural competition to see who dislikes the president more," he said. "They should not disdain our Constitution by rushing through a purely partisan impeachment process and then toying around with it. Governing is serious business."

The parameters of a Senate trial have not yet been agreed to, though Republican Senator Lindsey Graham suggested the upper chamber change its rules to move forward with an impeachment trial without the articles.

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