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. Southern

    Wonder when Sen Graham will announce that he is changing parties.He has done everything he could to politicize and feature for public consumption his disgust with fellow republicans..then he wanders around and wonders why the white house is out of reach for the repubs.......what a complete dufus. What.... he was not aware of the ambiguity of the WH/DOJ responses?????????

    March 7, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  2. ritmocojo

    What drama queens these teapoopers are.

    March 7, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  3. dreamer96

    Does Rand Paul remember that on 9/11/2001 Bush gave the go ahead to shoot down anymore hijacked passenger jets..but no more existed....We knew for years about a Bin Laden plan to hijack 12 passenger jets and fly them into US government buildings, the Congress, White House, Pentagon, the CIA headquarters...and other tall towers like the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Seattle tower, and buildings in L.A.

    I guess that is why NORAD had drills just like the real 911 attack, and sent fighters out over the ocean to intercept any more...To bad they did not understand the meaning of Home Made Cruise Missiles.....and the FBI reports of Muslims just wanting to learn to fly large passenger jets and not to take off or land...Hmmm

    Bush was willing to kill some innocent Americans, to save more lives dying in a more attacks...3,000 died in New York...

    March 7, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. Hugh Harvey

    While I have zero use for Holder, these two senators sound like idiots. If an American citizen is wanted to criminal acts, murder, kidnapping, bank robbery, terroristic acts, etc, is sitting in a resturant and the police, State police, FBI, ATF, etc come upon them and try to arrest them and they resist etc, is the law enforcement officials allowed to use force? Yes, of course they are! What is any difference in a drone? It is a weapon used to stop a criminal.

    March 7, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. ART

    What a waste of time

    March 7, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  6. Sly Cooper

    I agree with Mr. Paul... On American soil, no, we do not need to use drones for killing.

    March 7, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. JustAO

    This clown is looking at a Tea Party nomination for 2016. He doesn't care about drones or confirmations. Did you see him at Clinton Secretary of State panel? He's out there for show and he presents these claims without facts or evidence just conspiracy theory.

    GOP will vote for this guy come 2016 in primaries and lose AGAIN to the Dems. Awesome!

    March 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. Obama2012

    LOL reading the comments here,. its funny how fast you "republicans" turn on one of your own if they step out of line the least little bit and may actually have a thought of his own,.. (oh heaven forbid!) No wonder your party is going down hill faster than a bullet train running off a cliff. Keep up the work,. come next election there wont be a party left to challenge the Democrats and after the people elect Democrats into control of congress,. THEN we will get things done to help this country get back on its feet.

    March 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Mr. Paul, does GWB have the authority to authorize an illegitimate war in Iraq over blatant lies and not be held accountable for the deaths of over 4,000 U.S. troops and over 1 million Iraqi civilians???

    March 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Homer and Jethro

    "So basically the answer is really yes. Because" No means NO, mister. Ask the next girl you see and she'll tell you the same.

    March 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. UDidntBuildThat

    I just find it amazing that this discussion is happening during the reign of Obama who was the same guy came out against the Patriot Act, warrantless wiring tapping of international calls, Gitmo, EIT etc. Now Obama extends Patriot Act and makes it even more broad than GWB ever wanted by apply to Americans here, performs EIT in other countries (oh right when GWB did it was torture, when Obama does it is A-OK 🙂 ), Gitmo wide open 5yrs later, & Warrantless wiretiapping A-Ok :-). Oh now add that Obama can deemed anyone sitting in a cafe as "engaging in combat" & boom! drone strike taking out a 3 mile radius and if others die well that's just "collateral damage".

    March 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  12. ART

    I hope adrone has Rand Paul and Ted Cruze in its sights as we speak, they are both enemies of our nation

    March 7, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. ChattyCathy

    You guys tht think you have won something because the President said he had no intentions of killing Americans on American soil, you haven't won anything because the President was NEVER going to do that. All this was because of someone saying something hypothetically that if something happened like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 again. Sure, the President wouldn't have to order a drone strike to stop another Pearl Harbor from happening. It could just be a dejavu type thing. Personally, If there was a chance that something like Pearl Harbor was going to happen again, I would hope that the United States could somehow stop it. But if all these Americans don't want it to be stopped and want it to happen again, well I guess I am just glad I don't live over there!

    March 7, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. komododr

    The questioned asked by Sen. Paul is moot. If and when the event occurs in U.S. soil the agency in charged is the FBI and not the CIA. If a homegrown heavily armed terrorists run and barricaded in a building the Justice Dept. I believe can order the drone to blast the building instead of sending a SWAT team. This operation will not involve the POTUS. Sen. Paul is now very happy after hearing the word "NO" from the Attorney General. Republicans lawmakers are accustom to sayin NO, so Sen. has to hear to word NO even if it really means YES.

    March 7, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. Dano

    Surely reasonable people can see that Senator Paul was merely grandstanding and trying to get as much media exposure for his possible run for POTUS in 2016. Does he truly believe that holding up this nomination will make us all safer, just because the AG gave an answer he liked? Hypothetically speaking, the next AG may interpret the law differently, like when Bush's AG Gonzales authorized torture and warrantless wiretapping of US civilians.

    March 7, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. westthea

    The key phrase is "not engaged in combat on American soil". In other words, if an American is engaged in "combat" and it is within the borders of the US, drones can be used to kill him. Conclusion: Rand Paul wasted lots of time, and time getting his name more firmly implanted within the media for a 2016 presidential run. Overall, it was political grandstanding on his part.

    March 7, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Jan

    I don't think much of what I read of what Rand Paul said in his filibuster nor his reported stands in general, but he used the filibuster the way it was designed to be used (to give voice to minority) because he accepted the original limitations requiring him to actually hold the floor for the duration of his filibuster. I can respect that. No matter what the Senator's position, this use of the filibuster is appropriate and consistent with a functional government– would that more things in all branches (and twigs) of our govt. were so!

    March 7, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  18. TexasVoter

    Paul and Cruz are, in my eyes, a disgrace as American's. As a Texan, Im ashamed to have Ted Cruz as my Senator. He was only one of a few that voted against the Violence against women act. He thinks women deserve to be beat. He is anti disabled Veteran. He is over joyed that the VA is going to have to cur hours of all personnel making claims take long and lab test at hospitals take long. He would rather a childs head get cut off in a bridge collapse than fund repairs. He would rather a Senior Citizen die of starvation than help. A total Jerk

    March 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  19. FatCongress

    What a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. I'm sure this schmuck is happy, the American people are not happy with congress. what a hot air balloon...

    March 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. theonewhoknosbest ;)

    what another stubborn pathetic excuse of a representative the people have voted to represent us. he's ready to vote so now they can proceed?! wow!!!!

    March 7, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. Sam Adams

    The President's first duty is to protect the country.
    If that means, for a particular emergency, that he must act and exceed his legal limits, I hope he acts and does not wait to consult Congress.

    March 7, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  22. rshanks66

    Paul Rand is all fluff, filler and fantasy... and very little substance. Just like a drag queen, actually.

    March 7, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  23. fayray11

    just another day wasted.

    the GOP masters of killing time and our nation.

    March 7, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  24. tafugate

    such an incredible waste of time. paul requires explanations to the most trivial issues. what did he think the answer was going to be? the reason he didn't get a letter sooner was probably because holder thought it was stupid and paul couldn't possibly be serious.

    March 7, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. Rick in OP

    If Holder would have answered the question with a resounding NO at the beginning there would have not been any issue.
    Rand Paul was right to call him out.

    March 7, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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