Trump’s second impeachment trial launches with questions over witnesses

For the first time in its 232-year history, the Senate is putting a former president on trial for impeachment charges — and no one is quite certain exactly how it will play out. Democrats haven't even decided among themselves whether they want to hear any witnesses.

The House’s impeachment managers delivered an article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday charging Donald Trump with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, making it official that a trial will be held. But Senate leaders have already agreed to delay the trial for two weeks, while the former president’s legal team prepares its defense and senators work to set up the parameters, with much to be determined.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell must still haggle over the basic structure of the trial, including length of arguments, motions to call witnesses, and a possible motion to dismiss the trial at its outset. The procedures — outlined in an organizing resolution — will foreshadow the likelihood, or not, of convicting Trump, which will require the support of at least 17 GOP senators.

“We’ll hopefully negotiate something with McConnell on the trial. We’ll see what happens,” Schumer told reporters. “We don’t know what the requests are on either side yet, the managers or the defense.”

Perhaps no procedure is more complicated than the question of witness testimony, with Democrats divided over whether witnesses are even necessary to prosecute the case against Trump, whose alleged conduct occurred mostly in public view. Senators from both parties also want the trial to be even swifter than Trump’s first trial, which lasted three weeks.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) acknowledged that Democrats are split on the issue, with many asserting that senators themselves were witnesses to the insurrection while others contend that senators, who are jurors in the trial, should not deprive either side of the ability to use witness testimony.

“It’s a sham trial if you say in advance that there will be no witnesses or documents,” Kaine said, noting that it’s up to the House managers and Trump’s defense team if they want to call witnesses. “I’m more into the principle of this. Impeachment is a very serious thing. … If either the managers or the defense want to put up witnesses and documents, they should be able to.”

It’s unclear how many senators from either party will support calling in witnesses. In Trump’s first impeachment trial, Democrats unanimously supported bringing in witnesses, arguing they were key to a fair trial. Senate Republicans, then in the majority, shut them down last year.

But in interviews Monday, several Democrats said this time is different because senators themselves are first-hand witnesses and don’t need to hear from others; they also argued that the Senate shouldn’t be bogged down with a trial when there’s urgent work to be done on the coronavirus pandemic, among other matters.

“The most powerful evidence is Donald Trump’s own words,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “I really feel the core centerpiece is Donald Trump’s own highly incriminating incitement.”

Later Monday night, Schumer said in an MSNBC interview that witnesses might not be necessary: “I don’t think there’s a need for a whole lot of witnesses. We were all witnesses.”

The House managers could push for witness testimony if they believe there are enough Republicans who could be persuaded to convict Trump; many in the GOP have lodged procedural arguments focused on providing due process to the former president. The managers have been having daily, members-only planning calls but have been told not to discuss their strategy publicly.

“The Senate sets the rules, so we’re waiting to see what the rules are. So we’re ready either way,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), one of the impeachment managers.

Still, senators expect that the organizing resolution will mostly mirror last year’s, with a few notable exceptions.

One key difference is that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the president pro tempore, is expected to preside over the proceedings, according to Senate sources. The Constitution states that the Supreme Court’s chief justice must preside over a presidential impeachment trial, but Trump is no longer in office, so John Roberts is off the hook.

Leahy’s role could give Republicans an opening to further portray the proceedings as partisan in nature. Already, Republicans are contending that putting a former president on trial is unconstitutional.

“I like Sen. Leahy, but it’s a conflict of interest,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “He’s a juror. He shouldn’t be sitting as a judge.”

Leahy defended his role, saying it amounts to ensuring that the rules are followed.

“I’ve presided over hundreds of hours in my time in the Senate. I don’t think anybody has ever suggested I was anything but impartial in those hundreds of hours,” Leahy said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on August 5, 2020.

Republicans’ focus on procedural arguments is intended to let them avoid taking a position on whether Trump’s conduct is impeachable, Democrats say. So far, few Republicans have commented on the merits of the House’s impeachment charges. That is likely to change soon, when the Senate moves on to oral arguments.

“Given the fact that the Democrats have the majority in the Senate, the process argument will ultimately fail and we will go onto the merits,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, who has criticized Trump’s conduct and has hinted that he would vote to convict Trump. The Utah Republican was the only GOP senator to vote to convict Trump in last year’s impeachment trial.

Indeed, Republicans are channeling their opposition to a trial into new momentum for a motion to dismiss the trial at its outset. The organizing resolution could detail the process for seeking such a motion, and the trial will likely present an opportunity for any senator to ask for an up-or-down vote to dismiss it.

“There seems to be some hope that Republicans could oppose the former president’s impeachment on process grounds, rather than grappling with his actual awful conduct,” Schumer said. “Let me be very clear: this is not going to fly.”

If talks between Schumer and McConnell are fruitless, Democrats could craft an organizing resolution that could pass the Senate with just Democratic votes with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker. When Republicans were in charge last year, the Senate voted on party lines to approve McConnell’s proposed parameters.

Absent witness testimony, the House managers could be buoyed by the slow drip of information about the run-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Last week, for example, the New York Times reported that Trump schemed with a top Justice Department official to oust the acting attorney general over the president’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The House managers are certain to reference these reports to buttress their argument that Trump laid the foundation for the riots at the Capitol and improperly used his perch to overturn the will of the voters.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said earlier this month that he feared he might regret his vote against impeaching Trump in the House due in part to additional pieces of information that portray Trump unfavorably. Democrats will try to use statements like that to their advantage.

Under an agreement reached Friday between Schumer and McConnell, the president’s team will have until Feb. 2 to respond to the impeachment article and the House managers will have until Feb. 8 to submit their pre-trial brief. The House will submit its pre-trial brief Feb. 2 and its pre-trial rebuttal Feb. 9, officially kicking off the trial.

Burgess Everett and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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Republican senators refuse to back Trump’s ‘treason’ claim against Obama

Senate Republicans on Tuesday distanced themselves from President Donald Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama committed “treason,” refusing to back up the unfounded allegation that has fueled the president’s revenge campaign against his predecessor.

In general, Republicans have shied away from directly criticizing the president’s comments and actions as the November election approaches. In fact, they have heeded Trump’s encouragement to undertake wide-ranging investigations targeting Obama administration officials for their roles in opening up the investigations that have ensnared Trump and his associates for years.

But accusing Obama of treason was a bridge too far, they said.

“I don’t think that President Obama committed treason,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who is up for reelection this year.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” added Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “I don’t have any evidence to believe he committed treason.”

Trump’s allies often claim the president was joking whenever he makes a controversial statement, even when Trump’s tone is serious and he repeats the claim several times. For example, Trump told a reporter on Tuesday that “I don’t kid” when asked whether he was serious when he said he had ordered a slowdown of coronavirus testing.

“It’s a silly, comedic thing, and you guys got to stop taking it all so seriously,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who laughed off the question. “I don’t think the former president committed treason.”

But not everyone is amused. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of Trump’s more vocal GOP critics, said that she did not see the president’s comments but that “obviously, he shouldn’t have said that.”

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Monday, Trump accused Obama of treason but did not provide evidence to back up the allegation. It’s a constant refrain from Trump, whose allies have ramped up their attacks against Obama in recent months — accusing the former president of illegally targeting Trump and his associates during the 2016 campaign and the presidential transition period.

Treason, the only crime specifically defined in the U.S. Constitution, is punishable by death and has rarely been charged in modern times. But Trump has a penchant for accusing his political foes of treason, most notably Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chairman, who led the impeachment efforts against the president. While presidents often criticize their predecessors, it’s highly unusual for one president to accuse another of treason.

GOP senators avoided echoing those unfounded claims. While many of them are sympathetic to Trump’s concerns about the origins of the Russia investigation, for example, Republicans simply did not want to talk about it on Tuesday.

“I’ve got more important things to worry about,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is leading an investigation into the Obama administration’s activities during the presidential transition process in late 2016 and early 2017, similarly declined to endorse Trump’s “treason” charge.

“The president speaks for himself,” Johnson said. “I’m looking at the corruption with the transition process, which I think is evidently true. And we just need to figure out all that did happen so that the American people understand it, so hopefully it’ll never happen again. I’m not going to respond to what the president said.”

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) described any treason allegation as “inflammatory,” but did not comment on Trump’s remarks, saying he had only heard about them.

The GOP’s resigned response to Trump’s comments also suggests a level of fatigue with being asked to answer for the latest tweet or controversial remark, while knowing that any semblance of criticism can prompt a fiery tweet from the president himself. Asked about a separate subject on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused reporters of trying to get him into a food fight with Trump by asking him about the president’s controversial statements.

“Every week, you all try to get me into a running commentary on the president’s comments about a variety of different things,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

In the aftermath of his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial, Trump has gone after his predecessor and other senior Obama administration officials as he seeks revenge for what he calls a “coup” against his campaign and presidency. Trump has said it began with the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into possible ties between his presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

But Trump has not cited evidence for the claims, and a Justice Department inspector general’s report last year stated that the counterintelligence probe was properly opened in 2016. The same watchdog report documented a series of errors and omissions in the Justice Department’s applications for surveillance against a Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, which the Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating in addition to the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser.

“I don’t make accusations like that until I know more about the facts,” Graham said.

“I don’t have any evidence to believe [Obama] committed treason, but I do believe what happened after the election with surveilling General Flynn was very problematic and I’d like to know more about it,” Graham added.

Earlier this year, Trump pushed Graham to haul Obama before the committee to testify about his potential involvement in the initial investigations that targeted Trump’s campaign and his associates. But Graham quickly dismissed that idea, saying it would set a dangerous precedent.

“I understand President Trump’s frustration, but be careful what you wish for. Just be careful what you wish for,” Graham said at the time.

In his interview on Monday, the president also referenced the investigation being led by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, which focuses on the origins of the Russia probe and whether there is enough evidence to indict former Obama administration officials.

“I never met Durham because I want to stay out of it, because otherwise it’s going to look political,” Trump said. “Let’s see what they come up with — but they don’t have to tell me. All I have to do is read the papers.”

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Trump railroads Republicans with new watchdog firing

Senate Republicans find themselves in a familiar place: steamrolled by President Donald Trump’s purge of government watchdogs and offering little indication of how they plan to stop him.

Some GOP senators offered tacit rebukes on Monday after the president fired the State Department’s inspector general late on a Friday night without providing a clear explanation for his decision, as required by law. Those lawmakers did the same last month when Trump sacked the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson — again, late on a Friday night.

And both times, their pleas have been ineffective. The president has defied Senate Republicans without hesitation, continuing to fire and reassign inspectors general whom he feels are insufficiently loyal to him without engendering real blowback from his party. It’s a dynamic that reflects both Trump’s hold on the GOP and the limits of Congress’ broader ability to rein in a president.

Several Senate Republicans reiterated Monday that the president is required by law to elaborate on his decision to fire Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general. They said they would wait for his response to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has sent letters to Trump demanding more detailed explanations of his firings of both Atkinson and Linick. When he fired Linick and Atkinson, Trump simply said in his official notification letters that he had lost confidence in both men.

“It’s very clear that the president has to provide a justification 30 days prior to the removal of an inspector general,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who co-wrote the 2008 law requiring notification to Congress ahead of an inspector general’s removal. “It is not a sufficient justification to say he simply lost confidence. As the co-author of that law, I know that is not what we intended. We intended a more fulsome explanation.”

But Trump unequivocally defended his most recent move — further underscoring that GOP senators’ warnings aren’t having an effect.

“It happens to be very political whether you like it or not. And many of these people were Obama appointments. So I just got rid of him,” the president said.

In this Oct. 2, 2019, file photo State Department Inspector General Steve Linick leaves a meeting in a secure area at the Capitol in Washington.

Trump’s decision to fire Linick without complying with the 2008 law is the latest example of the president’s concerted campaign against high-level administration officials in the aftermath of his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial, with a particular focus on those who played a role in his impeachment.

Several Republican senators who faulted Trump for his conduct toward Ukraine during the trial but still voted to acquit him said they had hoped Trump would learn a lesson from the impeachment saga. But Trump has emerged emboldened and eager for retribution, even as Republicans speak out against him.

“We deserve an explanation,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “These are important positions. They are watchdogs for these agencies, and they have an important role to play, and I think it’s important for us to be a part of the oversight process.”

But Republicans also acknowledged that the president has the authority to decide who serves in his executive branch, and most stopped short of endorsing more aggressive mechanisms to compel the president’s compliance. As Democrats introduced legislation that would require congressional approval for the firing of an inspector general, several Republicans said it was too soon to consider such an action — and reiterated that the president is already required by law to provide a detailed justification, even as he maintains the authority to hire and fire these officials.

“The inspector general serves a purpose,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership. “But they do serve at the discretion of the president, which seems to be contradictory but that’s the way the law is written.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters on Monday that he would consider supporting legislation from Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) aimed at shielding inspectors general from politically motivated terminations, but he didn’t rule out introducing his own proposal.

“I would like to see a way to preserve the independence of the inspectors general,” Romney said. “There are multiple ways one could potentially do that.”

Linick’s firing drew criticism from some Senate Republicans over the weekend, including Grassley, Collins and Romney. They’re the same GOP senators who sought details on Trump’s firing of Atkinson, who was also sacked on a Friday night with little by way of an official explanation.

And on Monday, Grassley sent yet another letter to the president demanding that he provide a written explanation for his removal of Linick by June 1. The Iowa Republican also followed up on his previous demand about Atkinson’s firing. That response was due on April 13, but Trump has thus far ignored the letter.

Grassley said on Monday that he expects a response sometime this week, adding that he has been pressing the White House on the issue.

“I had a telephone call maybe two weeks ago because I was complaining I didn't get an answer,” Grassley said. “And they said, 'We're gonna get you one right away.' Well they didn't get it right away. But we're gonna get it.”

Rather than heed the senators’ advice, Trump called out Collins in a tweet late Sunday night and said she and other senators should deal with “this whole whistleblower racket.” It was a direct shot not only at Collins, but also at Grassley, who has long advocated for the independence of inspectors general and protections for whistleblowers.

When asked about Trump’s tweet, Collins said that “there seems to be a bit of confusion” and emphasized that her comments “were in reference to the removal of the State Department inspector general.”

It’s not just the usual suspects who have asked Trump to back off his war on independent oversight agencies. Last month, Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) wrote to Trump asking him to support inspectors general rather than undermine them, in particular after Trump reassigned a Health and Human Services watchdog who had published reports that were critical of his administration.

“One thing I think must be done is that we follow the law, which is 30 days notice and a rationale,” Portman reiterated on Monday. “Although we understand these are executive branch confirmed positions and the president has the right under the Constitution to decide who he wants in his executive branch, we wanted there to be some degree of independence.”

Trump said on Monday that he fired Linick at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s request.

Linick was investigating Pompeo and his wife over allegations that they improperly directed political appointees to run personal errands for them, including walking their dog and picking up their dry cleaning. Linick was also probing the Trump administration’s effort to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval, Democrats said on Monday.

The Democratic-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee is investigating the firing, alongside the Democratic minority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Republicans have thus far declined to join that effort, prompting withering criticism from Democrats.

“Is a mild rebuke the most my Republican colleagues can muster? A tweet? Concerned statements?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “They are so afraid of President Trump, they cling almost to his ankles that when they know he is doing wrong, when they know he is hiding the truth, they’re afraid to say anything. They shudder. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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‘There are going to be cases’: Coronavirus gets real for an aging Senate

They traverse the country every week by plane, appear at events with hundreds of people and shake countless hands. They work in a sprawling complex with a constant influx of tourists. And two-thirds of them are over the age of 60.

In other words, U.S. senators are among those most at-risk of contracting — and potentially succumbing — to the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly around the globe.

But most of them have no intention of radically changing their habits amid a seemingly uncontrolled outbreak.

“Our lifestyle is the exact opposite of a quarantine. We are by nature public animals and in contact with the public, and you know I spent the weekend going to a dozen events — a dozen — and half the time people elbow, fist bump, shake hands,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), 75, said. “I’m not scared, I’m healthy, I can deal with it — but I’m in the age group and I take it seriously.”

Senators described their institution as uniquely vulnerable to the virus, which has disproportionately impacted the elderly. And they acknowledged that the nature of their jobs makes it much more likely that they will come in contact with the virus.

“Somewhere between a football team and a nursing home is where I’d put us,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), 64, quipped when asked about senators’ susceptibility.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 04: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attends the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC.  President Trump delivers his third State of the Union to the nation the night before the U.S. Senate is set to vote in his impeachment trial.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“I think most members are in good shape,” he added. “But it does attack older people like myself. But again, it’s a lot like the flu in terms of the way it interacts — without a vaccine.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), 62, said he doubled the number of paid sick days for his staffers on Monday to encourage them to stay home if they are sick. But those who have been infected with the virus often do not show symptoms for several days, and he acknowledged that it will be difficult for those who work in the Capitol to remain healthy.

“You can’t just not shake people’s hands,” Kaine said. “We are in a profession where we are with a ton of people and we are interacting with them in ways where even if it’s a disease where you can be asymptomatic and transmit. It’s challenging.”

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to head off on a week-long recess next week, and in the meantime lawmakers will grapple with twin — and often competing — priorities: protecting themselves, but also standing ready to legislate on a possible economic stimulus package.

Lawmakers are also worried about inducing potentially unnecessary panic among Americans, and said it was too early to consider operational changes like barring tourists or asking staffers to work from home.

So far, Senate leaders have not hinted at any imminent changes to the chamber’s schedule that could keep lawmakers on recess for longer. The matter was not discussed at the Senate GOP leadership meeting on Monday evening, according to an attendee. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there was no reason to alter the congressional calendar “at this time.”

But on Sunday and Monday alone, there were new reasons for senators to be alarmed about their daily and weekly routines.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz announced that he would self-quarantine this week at his home in Texas after coming into contact with an attendee at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) opted against attending a House GOP retreat over the weekend, citing concerns about transmitting the virus to vulnerable family members.

Two additional House Republicans — Doug Collins of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida — announced they, too, would self-quarantine. Both men interacted with the president in recent days: Collins shook hands with him last week and Gaetz rode with him on Air Force One on Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thanked Cruz for staying home “out of an abundance of caution” and urged his colleagues to listen to health experts.

“Our great nation is very strong,” he said. “We have enormous expertise and tremendous capabilities.”

On top of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on Sunday warning the elderly and those with underlying health conditions against taking long flights. The federal government’s guidance has changed almost daily as officials learn more about the coronavirus and its effects on the human body, and lawmakers said they are prepared for more restrictions.

“I’m on an airplane twice a week for an hour or two each time and there will come a point where they’re going to tell me that’s not a smart thing to do,” Durbin acknowledged.

Senators said it was all but inevitable that one of them contracts the virus or comes in contact with someone who has tested positive for it, especially given the high volume of tourists who visit the Capitol every day.

“I don’t think there’s any way to avoid that, to be frank,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), 48, who travels between Washington and Miami every week. “Nobody wants to talk about it, but it’s a fact.”

“I think we should assume that there are going to be cases,” Rubio added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, said the top Democratic presidential candidates — a senator and ex-senator in their 70s — as well as Trump himself should assess their own risks and make decisions accordingly.

“They have made a commitment of their life to serve publicly, and that’s what they're doing,” Fauci said during an interview on CNN. “There are risks that people take. And there are relative risks. Each individual makes up their mind for their own safety.”

Not all senators have seen a cause for alarm. Many of them have yet to cancel events and are doing what countless other Americans do: wash their hands more often, use hand sanitizer and adopt the growing elbow-bump trend.

“[Medical officials] haven’t suggested anything yet. And because they’re experts — and we need to listen to the experts more now than ever before — I’m not concerned,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), 86, said in a brief interview.

“I’m using more hand sanitizer. I was disappointed Tito’s Vodka isn’t an approved sanitizer, but you got to make do with what you got,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), 68, quipped. “But I think seriously, just exercising good personal hygiene will help a lot.”

Heather Caygle and Myah Ward contributed to this report.

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Senate to rein in Trump’s war powers after Iran strike

The Senate is set to pass a bipartisan resolution this week to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran weeks after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general.

The War Powers resolution, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), will come to the floor Wednesday with a final expected vote Thursday. While the measure is not likely to garner enough support to overturn a likely Trump veto, its expected passage in the Senate nevertheless illustrates a rare congressional effort to rein in the president’s executive authority.

In addition to all 47 Democrats, the measure so far has support from Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The Democratic senators running for president are expected to be in Washington for the vote on Thursday, ensuring that the 51-vote threshold for the War Powers resolution will be met.

“The last thing this country should do is rush into or blunder into another war in the Middle East. And no matter who our president is, no president is smart enough to, on their own, make that kind of a decision without deliberation,” Kaine said in an interview. “The logic of the idea just gets more and more persuasive the more time that elapses after 9/11.”

Indeed, Congress has abdicated war-making powers to the executive branch in the years after both chambers adopted authorizations for the use of military force against al Qaeda in 2001 and against Iraq in 2002. The war powers issue rose to prominence yet again last month in the days following Trump’s Jan. 2 order of an airstrike that killed Qassim Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds force and a longtime target of American military operations.

If the War Powers measure is approved by both chambers as expected, it will be the second time such an effort has reached Trump’s desk. Last year, the House and Senate passed a War Powers resolution intended to cut off U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war — the first time both chambers of Congress used the 1973 War Powers Act to constrain presidential authority. Trump vetoed that resolution.

On Wednesday, Trump urged GOP senators to vote against Kaine’s resolution, arguing that it sends “a very bad signal” and “Iran would have a field day.”

“The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party. Don’t let it happen!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

FILE -- In this Feb. 11, 2016 file photo, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani attends an annual rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran. As Saudi Arabia holds a naval drill in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general was quoted, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, by the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies as suggesting the kingdom's deputy crown prince is so

Kaine’s bill would require Trump to cease all hostilities targeting Iran within 30 days unless explicitly approved by Congress. He has modified the original language of the resolution to attract Republican support, including nixing references to Trump. The measure — privileged under the War Powers Act — was on hold during the Senate’s three week impeachment trial, which concluded last week.

Like the Yemen vote, Kaine’s effort will expose long-standing foreign policy divisions within the Republican Party. While the vast majority of Senate Republicans share the party’s historically hawkish positions and supported Trump’s decision to take out Soleimani, several GOP senators have teamed up with Democrats in recent years to force votes to rein in presidential war-making powers.

“I think we’ve abdicated our duty to decide whether we should still be at war or not,” said Paul, who has long opposed U.S. interventions in foreign conflicts and has worked with Democrats over the years on war powers issues. “So the War Powers Act vote for me is just an opportunity to discuss whether or not we should still be at war in Afghanistan or Iraq or any of these places.”

“I’m just ensuring that Congress fulfills our article one responsibilities, that’s all this is about,” added Young.

The views of Paul and Young run counter to those expressed by Senate GOP leaders, who have long supported giving the commander-in-chief wide latitude to order military operations abroad.

“Just as we have successfully sent Iran this strong signal of our strength and resolve, a blunt and clumsy War Powers resolution would tie our own hands,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday. “With China and Russia watching, is it really a good idea to suggest that we’re willing to let a middling power like Iran push us around?”

While Republicans acknowledge the disagreements within their own party, they have sought to portray the GOP senators supporting Kaine’s bill as outliers.

“I know there are some divisions in our conference, but I think the overwhelming majority [of Republicans] will vote against it for unnecessarily tying the hands of the president,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “I mean, we all agree that Congress plays an important role, and we’re not as nimble in actually responding to exigent circumstances.”

Congressional Republicans generally praised Trump for the strike against Soleimani, but Democrats and even some Trump allies questioned the justification for the strike as well as Trump’s authority to carry it out without congressional approval.

Emerging from an all-senators classified briefing on the Soleimani killing last month, Lee said Trump administration officials advised lawmakers to not debate presidential war powers. Lee called the suggestion “insulting and demeaning.”

“The worst briefing I’ve seen — at least on a military issue — in the nine years I've served” in the Senate, Lee said.

White House and Pentagon officials have repeatedly asserted that Trump had the authority to take out Soleimani, pointing to the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force.

Trump himself has expressed disparate views on U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts. While he has campaigned on “ending endless wars,” he has steadfastly resisted congressional efforts to curb U.S. military incursions abroad. Paul, who informally advises Trump on foreign policy and national security matters, has tried to veer the president toward a more non-interventionist posture. But, he added, “We’ve just got to get him some better advisers.”

In the face of a likely veto from the president, Democrats are casting the vote as a symbolic rebuke but also a re-affirmation of Congress’ authority.

“The president will veto it, but it sends a shot across his bow that the majority of the Senate and the majority of the House do not want the president waging war without congressional approval,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “And once again, the American people are overwhelmingly on our side.”

Kaine said that even if Trump vetoes the resolution, the measure could nevertheless influence his behavior and decision-making when it comes to U.S. policy in the Middle East.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Tuesday that he expects the House to vote on the Senate bill later this month.

Sarah Ferris and James Arkin contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the year Congress passed an authorization for the use of military force targeting al Qaeda.
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