Rand Paul to Kerry: Under Your Legal Rationale, We Could Attack Moderate Syrians

‘I am very disappointed in the president for not obeying the Constitution’

PAUL: "If we use your logic and say that 2001 A.U.M.F. can be used to justify this, well the 2001 A.U.M.F. could be used to justify going after the moderate Syrian rebels who are associated with al Queada. So I think really anybody who is intellectually honest would say that the people who voted in 2001 to go to war with the people who attacked us on 9/11, the people congregated in Afghanistan has absolutely nothing to do with this. And really this committee, Congress, Senate and the president are all abdicating their responsibility to vote for a new use of authorization of force. And what you are doing now is illegal and unconstitutional.

I think also, from a practical point of view, it would be better to bring the country together. I think we would galvanize more support. It would be a bipartisan war. And had the president been a great leader, he should have come before a joint Congress. Instead of going on TV, should have come before a joint Congress and immediately ask for resolution and there should have been a vote. That would have been true leadership. There would have been true bipartisan support and then really it would be less carping on both sides. The president also used to believe this. The president ran — it was one of large reasons the public went for the president initially as he said, ‘No president should unilaterally go to war without the authority of Congress.’

So I liked the president as a candidate on this issue but not so much as a president. The other problem with this is that who are these moderate people? Are there really moderate Islam — Islamic rebels in Syria? Here is a quote. I would like your comment on this. Ryan Crocker, the distinguished former U.S. ambassador to both Iraq and Syria said that the administration’s knowledge about the non-ISIS opposition is that we need to do everything we can do to figure out — this is Crocker — ‘we need do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition is, because frankly, we don’t have a clue.’ You know, most of the weapons we’ve been giving to the moderate rebels [indecipherable] that’s where they stop briefly before ISIS takes the weapons. Some of these, the Syrian national revolutionary front have signed a cease-fire. Maybe not all of the vetted rebels are, but the Syrian revolutionary front has signed the cease-fire.

So really, I argue, and I would believe, and I would like to hear your comment: I think we have allowed there to be more of a safe haven for ISIL in giving weapons to the so-called moderate rebels. Because really it has taken pressure off them. It’s kept Assad at bay and I think — contrary to what others have said here — had we bombed Assad last year, ISIL would be in Damascus. So I think we’re lucky we didn’t bombed Assad last year, and we should be careful about arming any Islamic rebels in Syria  because the weapons may not stay where they are intended and they may have the unintended consequence of actually enabling ISIL. Your comments?”

KERRY: “Well, we are not planning to nor do we want to nor have we armed Islamic folks in Syria. The United States doesn’t do that and we have opposed it, and Robert Ford will tell you that. And Robert Ford worked very hard to make sure that we weren’t doing that. I also think it’s good that you’re going to hear from Robert Ford because he will give you about as good as analysis of who the non-ISIS opposition is, and he will break it down point for point because he did he that for me on many occasions and articulated who they were and so forth. But he was also a passionate supporter of making certain that the moderate opposition got support and he fought hard to get more support than they did get. Absolutely. So, I think he should do that for you. But let me just make it clear that — I’m glad that you can guarantee there would be a vote if the president sent something up here. I got 60 nominees. Some of them have been waiting more than a year to get a vote up here. And the chair, the ranking member have been terrific in helping to try to break them out. But they can’t get a vote. So if you can tell president you can actually guarantee a vote, I would be really amazed.”

PAUL: “I find it unbelievable that if the president came before a joint session of Congress and asked for use of force, that he wouldn’t get a vote. I find it unthinkable. There’s absolutely no way that you can imagine that he would not get a vote if he asked for it. So really, let’s be honest, politics are engaged [up here]. People don’t want to have a vote before the election. They’re afraid of this vote. People are petrified not of the enemy, but petrified of the electorate. That’s why we’re not having a vote.”

KERRY: “Let me answer that first part of your question so that we make it crystal clear why the president is doing what he’s doing because you are insinuating — not insinuating, you are stating, quite declaratively that the president has violated the Constitution. The president absolutely clearly by almost any legal standard that I can imagine is not violating the Constitution, he is upholding it."

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