Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday morning on "Meet the Press" that it is up to Congress to reassert its authority on war powers and it is up to President Trump to keep his promise to end perpetual wars.
"Presidents of both parties have been trying to usurp the authority that our founding fathers wanted to remain in Congress," Paul said. "They wanted to make it difficult to go to war and I think we’ve been drifting away from that for a long time, but that’s why I’m willing to stand up, not that I distrust President Trump but I’m willing to stand up even against a president of my party because we need to stand up and take back the power."
Paul said Trump was sending "mixed messages" about his desire to end the various wars the U.S. has engaged in since 9/11.
"I think President Trump has been very consistent saying he doesn't want perpetual war. But I have pushed back and I've said, 'If you keep sending more troops, you will have perpetual war,' " Paul said. "The troops are merely targets."
CHUCK TODD: Let me start with what you have heard from the administration. You heard from the Ambassador I think just now. I know you've had other briefings. Do you feel as if you have got enough information to make you feel comfortable with what President Trump did?
SEN. RAND PAUL: You know, I think we've heard contradictory information. We've heard that the -- from the Secretary of State that they don't know where or when but it was imminent. That to me does seem inconsistent. He thinks he can square the circle, but to me it seems pretty inconsistent. To me there's a bigger question too, though. This is what really infuriated me about the briefing: Is they maintain both in private and in public that a vote by Congress in 2003 or 2002 to go after Saddam Hussein was a vote that now allows them to still be in Iraq and do whatever they want, including killing a foreign general from Iran. And I don't think that's what Congress meant in 2002, nor do I think one generation can bind another generation. So my point in being for this war powers debate is that we really need to have a debate about whether we should still be in Iraq or in Afghanistan. There needs to be authorization from Congress.
CHUCK TODD: I do want to get your reaction to something President Trump said, because he, he makes no apologies for not informing Congress. Let me give you -- read -- play for you the explanation here gave.
PRES. DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, I am worried about it. Can you imagine? Here we are, split second timing, executed like nobody's seen in many, many years on Soleimani. Can you imagine? They want us to call up and speak to crooked, corrupt politician Adam Schiff.
CHUCK TODD: Now Senator, I know that politics is high and the polarization is high, but if that becomes a standard where presidential administrations decide they're not going to inform Congress because they just don't like somebody who is in line to receive that information, where does that leave us?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, you know this is not a new trend --
CHUCK TODD: Nope.
SEN. RAND PAUL: -- this started probably very aggressively with Truman in the Korean War, LBJ in the Vietnam War, President Obama did hundreds and hundreds of targeted killings without asking for permission. So I think presidents of both parties have been trying to usurp the authority. But our Founding Fathers wanted it to remain in Congress. They wanted to make it difficult to go to war. And I think we've been drifting away from that for a long time. But that's why I'm willing to stand up. Not because I distrust President Trump. I actually think he has shown remarkable restraint. But I'm willing to stand up even against a president of my party, because we need to stand up and take back the power. We also need to debate whether or not we're going to keep sending kids forever to Afghanistan and Iraq. And I, frankly, think we ought to end those wars.
CHUCK TODD: Are you concerned? I mean look, the numbers tell the story. It does feel as if we've sent more troops to the Middle East, look at what's happening in Saudi Arabia, which I know you've been against, then we're bringing them home. What kind of message does that send to the American people?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, I think it's a mixed message. I think President Trump has been very consistent saying he doesn't want perpetual war. But I have pushed back and I've said, "If you keep sending more troops, you will have perpetual war." The troops are merely targets. I'm going to be having a hearing in the next couple weeks about the Afghan Papers. It troubles me that in private commanders and generals have been saying for more than a decade that there's no mission in Afghanistan. We had two young men die this week. You know, I have friends who will be sending their kids there in the next six months. I don't want to send these young men and women to war if there is no mission and if the generals are privately saying it can't be won.
CHUCK TODD: Is there a way -- it's my understanding during the briefing, according to George Will's reporting, that Senator Chris Coons multiple times asked whether, whether they would seek congressional approval to deal with Iran if Iran got a nuclear weapon, to deal with Iran in a military way. And they just kept dodging the question. How important do you think it is to get that, essentially, on paper?
SEN. RAND PAUL: I think it's incredibly important. Throughout the whole briefing they were dismissive of Congress. They , in the end, said they didn't have time to come back. We only had about eight senators ask questions and they said, "Oh, we don't have time. We're busy" about coming back to brief the rest of us or take questions from the rest of us. So it was very dismissive. But it's also arrogant to say that a vote from Congress, 16, 17 years ago, that that vote now binds another generation and another generation to war in Iraq. It was against Saddam Hussein, for goodness sakes. This is a completely different government. This is not even the Iraqi government we're now fighting. It's Iranian generals that happen to be in Iraq. But here's the great irony of the Iraq War, and this is something Trump gets incredibly right. And that is that since the Iraq War we now have an Iraq that is more aligned with Iran than us. We're trying to force them to keep our troops. The irony of that is glaring. And I think we really need to have a full throated debate in Congress. The majority of American people want to come home. They don't understand why we're still there. I want to have that debate and I want to bring our kids home.
CHUCK TODD: You know, it's interesting. You have -- and I think in some ways you believe President Trump's instincts comport with your instincts when it comes to national security and foreign policy. But his advisors are in a different place. How much do you think that -- does that bothers you? Or is that healthy?
SEN. RAND PAUL: I'll give you an example. You know I'm on the Foreign Relations Committee and all of his nominees come before me. And I even warned some of them in private, "I'm going to ask you, 'Do you agree with President Trump that the Iraq War was a mistake?'" You know what? Most of them don't agree with him. He keeps appointing people to represent him that think the Iraq War was just great. They loved Dick Cheney's position and they still don't admit it was a mistake. So that's why he keeps getting policy that isn't his policy. I do this his instincts are pure. He's been saying it since -- for 20, 30 years. He's been saying it for a long time that the wars have drained our treasury and that he's not in favor of these wars. But then they convince him if we leave, we'll look weak. I actually think this is a time of strength right now. Soleimani's dead. The leader of a lot of the mayhem is dead. This will be the time to come home. The Iraqi government, the democratically elected government, wants us to come home. We should come home. And the only way --
CHUCK TODD: I was just going to say you think the President should take them up on this offer? You want us out? Let's do it.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Absolutely. And the only way people become stronger is when they stand up for themselves. In Afghanistan when the government, and the soldiers, and the police finally fight the Taliban, they'll do better. When Iraq says, "Oh my goodness. Iran is overrunning us," or they see that the Sunni extremists are overrunning us, they have to stand up and fight. If they can't fight for their country, why are we always the patsy sending our kids there?