Politics Senators disagree over military response to Syria -- and Trump's legal authority to wage it

13:41  10 april  2018
13:41  10 april  2018 Source:   cnn.com

Trump says Syria attack "could be very soon or not so soon at all"

  Trump says Syria attack U.S. President Donald Trump amended on Thursday an earlier warning of a swift military strike against Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians, saying it "could be very soon or not so soon at all.""Never said when an attack on Syria would take place," Trump wrote on Twitter.

Top senators were divided Thursday over whether President Trump already has the legal authority for a military strike on Syria or should seek an authorization from Congress.

The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it , has argued that it has the legal authority to wage war against ISIS under the 2001 New questions about the administration’ s views over the current AUMFs arose in April after Trump authorized military strikes in Syria .

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee listens to testimony during a committee hearing November 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the © Win McNamee/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee listens to testimony during a committee hearing November 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the "Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons." (\Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As President Donald Trump assesses how to respond to the alleged chemical attack in Syria that killed and maimed dozens of civilians, lawmakers disagreed Monday what an appropriate response should be and whether Trump needed their authorization before acting.

"I think we need to take some surgical military strikes against Syria," said Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the influential Foreign Relations Committee. "Something for a heavy price to be paid."

GOP rep: US Constitution doesn't give president 'authority to strike Syria'

  GOP rep: US Constitution doesn't give president 'authority to strike Syria' Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) lashed out on Friday at President Trump's decision to launch "precision strikes" in Syria, saying that the U.S. Constitution does not give the president the ability to authorize such an attack."I haven't read France's or Britain's 'Constitution,' but I've read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to s trike Syria," Massie tweeted.I haven't read France's or Britain's "Constitution," but I've read ours and no where in it trike Syria.

Tim Kaine, D-Va., is demanding the release of a secret memo outlining President Donald Trump ’ s interpretation of his legal authority to wage war. Kaine and others worry that such action compromises congressional oversight over military action.

Trump ' s Attack on Syria Violated US and International Law. In response to an April 2017 inquiry by Kaine and Rep. In a February 5 letter, 18 senators informed Trump that he lacks the " legal authority " to conduct a preemptive military strike on North Korea.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut warned against it.

"Let's be clear, these pinprick strikes have not worked," said Murphy, who sits on Foreign Relations. "The President tried that a year ago and it seemed to make the situation worse, not better."

Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a member of the Armed Services Committee, was among those who said Trump has the authority to act now.

"In a case like this, where you have determined chemical weapons are being deployed," Rounds told CNN, "we have recognized that the President does have the ability to respond in short order."

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, a senior member on Foreign Relations, said the US needs to go the diplomatic route and work with the international community to build a case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Kaine rips Syria strikes: What's stopping Trump from bombing Iran, North Korea next?

  Kaine rips Syria strikes: What's stopping Trump from bombing Iran, North Korea next? Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tore into President Trump's authorization of military strikes in Syria, calling them "illegal" and "reckless" and questioning what's to stop him from bombing Iran and North Korea."President Trump's decision to launch airstrikes against the Syrian government without Congress's approval is illegal and - absent a broader strategy - it's reckless," Kaine said in a statement Friday night. "Today, it's a strike on Syria"President Trump's decision to launch airstrikes against the Syrian government without Congress's approval is illegal and - absent a broader strategy - it's reckless," Kaine said in a statement Friday night.

James Jarrard said the troops had to stay because the anti-terror mission in Syria was “far from over .” Trump invoked this broad authority in April, when he ordered a cruise missile strike against a Syrian military base in response to Assad’ s use of chemical weapons.

“The constitutional legality of last night’ s strike against Syrian military forces in response to chemical weapon The Trump administration hasn’t put out any explicit legal justification for the strike, or even clarified The White House is threatening Syria over a possibly made-up chemical weapons issue.

"We need to work with the United Nations and hold President Assad accountable for his war crimes," Cardin said.

Several Syrian activist groups on Saturday reported the attack, which took place in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The groups said deadly gas was dropped in barrel bombs from helicopters. Gruesome and emotional images of injured and dying victims have played repeatedly on television and online since. The Syrian government has denied the allegations.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting Monday at the White House, Trump vowed he would have a response within the next two days. "We cannot allow atrocities like that," he said.

After a similar attack a year ago, Trump ordered the firing of scores of cruise missiles at Syrian forces.

Immediately after last week's attack, Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who's the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and supports a robust US military presence in Syria, blasted Trump and said he had "emboldened" Assad when he said last week that he wanted to pull American forces out of the country.

Democratic lawmakers renew calls for congressional authorization of Syria strikes

  Democratic lawmakers renew calls for congressional authorization of Syria strikes Democratic lawmakers fervently renewed their calls for congressional approval of military force following President Donald Trump's Friday night announcement of US precision strikes against Syria. "The President must come to Congress and secure an Authorization for Use of Military Force by proposing a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives that keep our military safe and avoid collateral damage to innocent civilians," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement Friday night.

But time and again, courts have disagreed , legal precedent has disagreed , military leaders have disagreed , and the American people have disagreed . Trump claims that his “ authority supersedes” both the CFPB’ s bylaws and the Federal Vacancies Act, which is just silly.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has decided that it needs no new legal authority from Congress to indefinitely keep American The senator accused Mr. Trump of “acting like a king by unilaterally starting a war.” Congress Needs To Act In Response To Trump ’ s Illegal War In Syria .

McCain's House counterpart, Texas Republican Mac Thornberry, called it a "mistake" for Trump to want to leave Syria at this stage.

"I think the notion that we would leave Syria is -- was a mistake, because we haven't finished destroying ISIS, and because people like Iran and Russia see a vacuum created when the US leaves into which they will run," he told CNN.

GOP Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who is also on the Armed Services Committee, agreed and said the US should not be "slaves to a timeline."

"I don't think the job is done in Syria, and I think we ought to stay until we get the results we need," Wicker added.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin cautioned that the US can't depart from Syria because it would "yield that to Iran and Russia."

"I think we have to respond," Johnson said. "But what I don't want to do is telegraph the response. If you're going to respond, respond. Do it quickly and effectively. Make Assad pay a price for that kind of heinous crime."

New Authorization for Use of Military Force?

Aside from what immediate military and diplomatic actions the US might take, Congress is struggling more broadly with how -- or if -- to update its Authorizations for the Use of Military Force for the war on terror, which were passed shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

Syrian chemical attack survivor to Trump: I want to 'buy you a beer'

  Syrian chemical attack survivor to Trump: I want to 'buy you a beer' A survivor of a Syrian chemical attack in 2013 wants to buy President Donald Trump a beer to share his experience on the conditions in the country. Kassem Eid, who told CNN's Ana Cabrera he lived under two years of siege and bombardment by the Syrian government, said he was glad the President has attempted to do something for the Syrian people. "I just want to tell Mr. Trump directly: I'm a Syrian refugee who survived chemical weapons attacks, who lived under two years of siege and bombardment by the government," Eid said.

Donald Trump is surely very happy Friday with the coverage noting the contrast between his quick response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack and that of the Obama administration in But the U.N. Security Council never authorized a military operation to punish Syria ’ s violation of the convention.

Despite the feigned shock of American senators over American military operations in Niger, there is no appetite within Congress to assert Syria debacle deepens crisis of Trump administration. Protests erupt in Ghana over US military agreement. Canada deploys “peacekeepers” to wage war in Mali.

Past efforts to renew them have collapsed under the competing demands of bipartisan lawmakers who want to place restrictions on the military missions and bipartisan lawmakers who want to give the commander in chief the widest latitude to go after terrorists, which they think resides in the existing authorities.

"The AUMF we're operating under now passed the week after September 11," said Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats. "No amount of creative lawyering, in my view, can stretch it to cover intervention in Syria."

Corker said he believes he has found the "sweet spot" between those demands, and a new Authorization for Use of Military Force will be considered in his committee later this month. Senators and aides are keeping the details of the emerging compromise private, so it's difficult to assess if they have something that can pass.

Corker said he hopes details will be made public Thursday.

"We've kind of seen an outline of something that I think has been pretty thoughtful," said Johnson, a member of Foreign Relations, who was reluctant to discuss details before Corker unveiled them.

Senators said it was improbable that a new Authorization for Use of Military Force could be completed before Trump might take immediate action against Syria but that if it turns into a lengthy conflict a new authorization might be needed to approve the deployment.

"If they are surgical in nature, no," said Corker. "If we are going to go against the regime on any kind of sustained basis, there has to be an AUMF."

Murphy said Trump should not act without congressional approval, but he acknowledged the President might anyhow.

"The President doesn't have the authority to take military action," said Murphy, who is heavily involved in trying to rewrite the Authorization for Use of Military Force. "There is zero legal justification to take strikes against the Syrian regime when there is not an attack pending against the United States."

Wicker warned that he did not think a new Authorization for Use of Military Force had good odds to pass, putting them at less than 50-50.

"There are some people who actually don't believe the War Powers Act is even constitutional. They feel it limits the commander in chief in a way that's not conducive to do national security in an emergency. And there are other people who just don't want to authorize any use of military force," he said.

"A new authorization is not at the top of my list of priorities," Wicker added.

CNN's Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.

Mattis disputes report he wanted Congress to approve Syria strike .
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday pushed back against a report saying he had unsuccessfully urged President Donald Trump to seek congressional approval ahead of last week's air strikes in Syria.Citing anonymous military and administration officials, the New York Times said Mattis had recommended Trump get a green light from lawmakers before launching Friday's cruise missile barrage against three targets the Pentagon said were tied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons program.

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