March 7th, 2013
02:01 PM ET
9 years 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.

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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. Alarming

    To have to ask the question tells each of us just how bad things are going to be in our very near future.

    March 7, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. JimC

    In further news, Republicans still have not figured out why they lost the election.

    March 7, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. obama is Out Of Touch with reality

    its still a matter of trust and no I do not trust our current administration.

    March 7, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. Name Miles Davis

    I think mr. paul should focus more on the people and restoring this economy than playing mind game with the president.

    March 7, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. Ayn Killin

    Liberals criticizing Rand need take a deep hard look at themselves in the mirror. How can you oppose Bush's water-boarding and torture, yet laugh at the fact that the door is being left open for our President to kill an non combatant American without due process? Senator Paul posited an important and substantive question to our President, which should have warranted an immediate answer.

    March 7, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. sadlyperturbed

    His answer covered all people within the US. whether Muslim or non-Muslim. Outside the US is a very different question, and one that has already been answered. Yes, we will use deadly force to stop an American citizen who chooses to leave the country and plot the deaths of others.

    I don't see why the GOP has a problem with this. They didn't have a problem killing millions of innocent Iraqi's without provocation. Iraq did nothing to the US which would have caused such a response. The GOP used our fear, unfounded as it turned out to be, as a weapon to get the invasion they wanted. They repeated the WMD mantra so often that we fell for the lies and allowed what really amounts to state sponsored terrorism in a country which had done nothing to us.

    March 7, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. James

    Define: American...this is the question. Their has been a lot of information as to who a: American Citizen, U.S. Cititizen, State Citizen, Sovereign, Freeman...these are all offices with different hats. DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

    March 7, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  8. glk20c

    It must have hurt Eric Hitler very much to acknowledge due process and constitutional restraints on government.

    March 7, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  9. ztom

    I am still not satisfied with Holder's response. What if an American-born terrorist lived 5 years in another country, and came back to the US and engaged in 2-3 terrorist acts. But then before the drones came, he stopped attacking and went to a cafe to sit down and eat. Then next he meets with Osama Bin Laden's sister-in-law on the right outside the Washington Monument? Would the President still be able to attack him with a drone? And if so, would it change anything if it turned out that this terrorist was really from a different planet, but was born on Earth as an interstellar anchor baby? Then if it survived the drone attack, would it still be eligible for financial aid if it got into a State school?

    These are important questions! Until Holder answers these and more, I will filibuster!

    March 7, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. Nate

    commit the crime of treason that could risk lives of Americans or an imminent threat to other American lives.. Ill throw whatever it takes to stop you...... 'Merica.

    March 7, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  11. lane

    My question is what is the definition of "engaged in combat". Didn't they call Dorner a "domestic terrorist"??? So, wouldn't he be considered engaged in combat?

    March 7, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  12. Willie K.

    It is important to think through these situations and debate what is and is not appropriate. However, no person is able to predict the potential situations a President may face. For instance, is an American citizen who goes on TV or the Internet, confesses to terror and vows to commit additional acts on US soil, still protected by the right of due process? Or did he waive his due process rights when he confessed and threatened further violent acts? We could play this game all day, but the answer is that we need to elect a reasonable person as President to make this kind of decision. We have one in the office now. If Rand Paul were in the office, well, it would be a different story.

    March 7, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. RR

    Rand is a moron, period, end of discussion.

    March 7, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  14. Jewels

    Sorry, but, Paul seems a little fruity to me. Good to see he's working but, is this really of concern?

    March 7, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. Joey

    It's just the same questions that Holder was asked a dozen times during his testimony. Why couldn't he answer "no" at that time? Yes, it was because Sen. Paul brought greater attention to the need for this question to be answered "yes" or "no" that Holder finally did.

    March 7, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. Paul

    How did we elect a President that thinks it's ok to have a kill list?

    March 7, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |

    Paul earned my vote. I'll never trust politicians like Bush or Obama ever again!!

    March 7, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  18. Voice_of_reason

    It's a shame you have to pin politicians down on the simple questions (both Repubs and Dems). Why didn't Holder and Brennan give direct answers to the direct questions during the Congressional hearings. We the people deserve better from both political parties–"say what you mean, mean what you say". I still would've liked to have seen its" not Constitutional" somewhere in the reply. Thanks Sen Paul for holding their feet to the fire.

    March 7, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. Sam

    You would think that with everything going wrong with our country that he would use his time more productive...come on.

    March 7, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  20. REGinAZ

    Here are some quotes from an article that put it all in perspective; the question at the end is my own:
    “According to University of California, Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez, fully 93% of the increase in total U.S. family income in 2010, the first full year of recovery, went to the top 1%. Public policies such as stimulative Federal Reserve actions that are helping to inflate the stock market, and tax cuts for the wealthy, have combined to create a level of economic inequality not seen in the United States since the Great Depression. Further, according to Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays, corporate earnings have risen at an annualized rate of 20% since the end of 2008, while household disposable income has barely moved, averaging an inflation-adjusted 1.4% annually over the same period.”
    Forced cuts are 'a win for nobody'
    “Forced Cuts are a Win for Nobody: The recently enacted sequestration cuts will further fuel the disparity between corporate America and the wealthy versus the middle class and the poor. The truth is that there is no debt crisis that was necessary to address with these cuts. As our economy grows and people get back to work, the debt and deficit will naturally decrease with a rising tax base, increasing consumer spending and the public investment that comes with greater revenue and improved consumer confidence and business sentiment.”

    “For sure, large and growing federal deficits are a legitimate concern. But with 12 million workers searching for jobs, millions more working part-time but wanting full-time employment with flat or falling wages, nearly 13 million families owing more on their homes than they are worth; with a nearly 40% drop in net worth for the average American family, and GDP barely in positive territory, the economy is in need of a jump start, not a cutback. Pulling back on federal spending now is equivalent to an unemployed worker refusing to go on job interviews in order to save on gas or bus fare.”

    “Since the latter part of 2012, Washington policymakers have been fixated on federal budget reduction. Yet none of those conversations have led, nor are likely to lead, to the creation of a single job. The American public deserves better. The reason given by Republicans and conservatives for the urgent need to drastically reduce federal spending was that mounting federal debt and big government was stifling private investment and economic output.” ... Was the real motivation just to continue their concentration on serving only “the money”, their strong supporters and masters, and further push the country into being a two-class society with the very few continuing to feed their insatiable “more” (never enough) appetite while the majority just looses more?

    March 7, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  21. Gator

    What short-sighted rediculous hypothetical questions will Paul come up with next? Can the president use a drone to attack a smurf village?

    March 7, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  22. revolting peasant

    I guess you can't blame Paul. He needs to get himself in the news, even if he is grandstanding about something stupid. I just wish the American people understood what fillerbustering was and realized how stupid the system is.

    March 7, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  23. REGinAZ

    There actually are posters who are paid / volunteer shills that aim to control the websites. Many posters have strong opinions, myself included, but you can recognize the shills in the volume of comments they make, which are always bold and persistent in presenting their stubborn bias without having any discipline for honesty, and they always strive to dominate. I have incurred the attention of the Republican variety who are quite aggressive as they aim to pull you in, contradict to discredit, use slander and intimidation and simply try to control the conversations while just pushing their propaganda. I don’t doubt there are those representing the Democrats too; I hope so as they then can keep each other busy. I’ve come to simply accept that all are a complete waste of time and to then just make my comments, for whatever they are worth, and let the shills take their shots without getting drawn into the senseless banter – no offense intended to others.

    March 7, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  24. Tiger Woods Ya'll

    Funny reading the response from the right wing supporters. No trust in Obama blah blah blah. Yet their "leadership" is wasting time arguing trying to prove point which there is no precedent for. Just ridiculous. There have not been drone strikes in US. This play on paranoia is stupid. No drone is going to be dropping bombs in suburban Sacramento. Get real.

    March 7, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. Jeb

    Paul, like his father, has accomplished absolutely nothing but in his time in office. All he does is grand stand and say no to everything. He has not and will not pass a single piece of legislation. What a waste of air.

    March 7, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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