March 7th, 2013
02:01 PM ET
1 year ago

Rand Paul 'happy' with drone response

(CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul ended his quest Thursday to block a vote on the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director after he received an answer from the Obama administration about his question on drones.

Paul's decision to back down cleared the way for a final Senate vote this afternoon, and the chamber confirmed Brennan in a 63-34 vote that crossed party lines.

In a letter to Paul Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.

"It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?' The answer to that question is no," the three-sentence letter stated.

In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Paul said he was satisfied with the response.

"I'm quite happy with the answer," the Republican senator from Kentucky said. "I'm disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer."

Bringing attention to his question, Paul led a nearly 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor Wednesday, blocking the confirmation process for Brennan to move forward.

The senator hit back at criticism that he was simply trying to be an obstructionist. Paul argued, rather, he was trying to get information.

"You use the leverage of your position and the procedures up here, I think, for a greater good," he said. "This is an example, I think, of trying to do something you really strongly believe in."

At 1:15 p.m. ET, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the letter was sent to Paul "within the last half hour or so."

But the senator did not see the letter until shortly after 2 p.m. ET.

Elaborating further on the administration's position, Carney said Thursday that the technology of a drone strike does not change the law.

"The president swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and he is bound by the law, whether the lethal force in question is a drone strike or a gun shot, the law and the constitution apply in the same way," he said.

Asked by CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta whether the president could use such force to prevent at attack on U.S. soil, Carney said "you can make sort of wild hypotheticals but that doesn't, they don't change the law."

"It is certainly the case that the president, in part of his oath to the Constitution, to uphold the Constitution, is sworn to protect the United States," he said. "And in event like an attack like Pearl Harbor or an attack like 9/11–obviously the president has the constitutional authority to take action to prevent those kinds of attacks, but that has nothing to do with the technology used to prevent those attacks."

Earlier this week, Paul took issue with Holder's recent admission, in which he said he could envision a scenario where a drone strike would, in fact, be ordered against Americans on U.S. soil.

While Holder said it's never been done before and he could only see it in an extraordinary circumstance, Paul said he was disturbed by the idea that an American citizen would lose his or her rights while within the country's borders.

Holder narrowed the list of those possible extraordinary circumstances Wednesday. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Holder on whether he believed it would be constitutional to target an American terror suspect "sitting at a cafe" if the suspect didn't pose an imminent threat.

After first saying it would be "inappropriate," Holder attempted to clarify his answer by giving a firm "no."

But he also said the government has no intention of carrying out drone strikes inside the United States. Echoing what he said in a separate letter to Paul sent earlier this week, he called the possibility of domestic drone strikes "entirely hypothetical."


Filed under: Eric Holder • Rand Paul
soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. nelson

    Paul = brinkmanship

    March 7, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  2. usresham

    Why would American president use 'drone' to kill any American citizen not engaged in combat? The question should be if 'engaged in terrorist or anti government activity'.

    March 7, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  3. Boo

    Another posturing Republican...get in line...

    March 7, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  4. jeff hard

    Glad he loosened his neck tie so his foreskin could come out and drone out his mouth.

    March 7, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  5. Guy

    Whatsa matter Senator Paul, are you scared of flying, killer robots?

    March 7, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. neoritter

    This was appropriate use of a filibuster. Kind of refreshing honestly.

    March 7, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Hey Mr. Paul, did the President ever said he wanted to use drones on Americans in America??? I believe a conservative reporter asked Attorney General Holder a question about drone usage in America and Mr. Holder said the only way we would be able to consider the use of drones in America was if it was made law of the land and was authorized by congress. Furthermore, Mr. Holder also stated that he does not see the need for the use of drones in the U.S. because we have law enforcement agencies to go after domestic terrorists. Finally, Mr. Holder said the only way he could see the use of drones being appropriate on American soil is in a situation where our nation was under seige and our sovereignty was in jeopardy. And by the way Mr. Paul, shouldn't the reporter who first mentioned drone usage in America be the one under scrutiny??? Why should the President and the Attorney General be scrutinized for a question that someone decides to bring up about drone usage in America??? O' by the way Mr. Paul, if you had the authority, would you have used drones to prevent Timothy McVeigh from carrying out his terror on Oklahoma City or al Qaeda from attacking our nation on 9/11?

    March 7, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. BWRITS

    The POTUS is Black!!!! Get your guns and run for the Hill!!! Take YOUR country back.
    And you call us "tards". OMG!!!

    March 7, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  9. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    The GOPT's Motto: If we don't succeed in making the President and the country fail, try anyway.

    March 7, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. John

    No, this was not just to obstruct. It was also so Ran Paul could get attention. His applying one answer to a different questions and supposing imagined hypothetical’s was just the ignorance of Ran Paul at work once again. This guy is a clown that just plays political games. He is everything that is wrong with Washington today.

    March 7, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Tom

    Can you say "publicity stunt?"

    March 7, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. Mel

    @ART

    "I hope adrone has Rand Paul and Ted Cruze in its sights as we speak, they are both enemies of our nation"
    -------------------
    You are very close to getting a visit from the Secret Service.

    March 7, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    David

    Way to go Rand Paul. See lib's....it would have been easier for the Obama team to just answer the simple question as was finally answered! Rand Paul was asking for
    -------------------------
    Notice how the letter notes that this is an additional question, which means that this question is not the same one that had been originally asked..

    AG Holder had been asked to give a "guarantee" that drones would "never be used" against "citizens on US soil." There is no possible way for Holder to have given such an absolute guarantee. The question quoted in the letter is different from what Holder had originally been asked.

    But, hey. Sen. Paul said that he's happy. At least it shows it has sense enough not to go back to the well after being verbally lashed by McCain and Graham, and deservedly so. Paul personified the Party's negative image. You're supposed to filibuster behind closed doors, not in the public eye.

    March 7, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. John

    Still working on that not being the party of stupid thing!

    March 7, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  15. Johnny

    UAVs!!!! not Drones.......... people do not know what they are talking about

    March 7, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. Mike D

    What Paul is happy with is the notoriety. He raised his stock a good bit with these shenanigans and is no doubt considering a 2016 or 2020 White House bid.

    March 7, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Next thing the teapublicans are going to say is that we cannot defend the President cannot defend America against an attack from NK. I guess only white Presidents can use force to defend our sovereignty. Hey Mr. Paul, so when is the President going to be impeached for authorizing the DRONE strike, I mean the SEAL strike that killed Osama Bin Laden??? I guess when you're envy and jealous of the success of the black President you right wing pigs would try anything to save face. Hey, four more years is a long time, enjoy your ulcers right wing bigots.

    March 7, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. jason d morris

    Maybe if Rand had paid attention in 9th grade Civics class, he would have learned (as I did) that the President does not have the authority to use force against Americans on American soil. Or maybe he did, and this was all just a tempest in a teapooper cup?

    March 7, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
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