President Trump announced the U.S. has launched “precision” strikes in Syria in coordination with France and the United Kingdom on Friday night.
During the speech, Trump pointed to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons last April and last week as a reason for the strikes and called out Russia and Iran for their association with “the mass murder of innocent men, women and children.” The al-Assad regime killed at least 34 people when it launched two separate chemical attacks on Douma last week, according to a Bellingcat analysis.
However, his speech never mentioned any plans to consult with Congress on the decision, which has been granted the authority to declare war by the U.S. Constitution. The decision to attack Syria without seeking congressional approval was condemned by both Republicans and Democrats.
Today, @RepZoeLofgren @RepBarbaraLee @RepThomasMassie and I sent a bipartisan letter to @POTUS—cosigned by 84 of our colleagues—demanding that the president not commence offensive military action against Syria without congressional approval, as the Constitution requires. pic.twitter.com/53awn6Fizh
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 14, 2018
These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless. The next speaker of the House must reclaim congressional war powers as prescribed in Article I of the Constitution. @SpeakerRyan has completely abdicated one of his most important responsibilities.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 14, 2018
I released the following statement today regarding the evolving situation in Syria: pic.twitter.com/YmCffNDpxg
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) April 12, 2018
— FoxNewsInsider (@FoxNewsInsider) April 12, 2018
While Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for his unlawful use of chemical weapons against civilians, the strikes that are being carried out are being done without an authorization from Congress, which is unacceptable
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) April 14, 2018
Dem CA Rep Lee: This is not a dictatorship. Congress, not the president, is responsible for debating and authorizing military action. By illegally bombing a sovereign nation, President Trump has once again denied the American people and Congress any oversight or accountability
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) April 14, 2018
This is not the first time the U.S. military has engaged in the Syrian war, which broke out in 2011. The Obama administration sought Congressional approval in 2013 to launch strikes on al-Assad’s regime after reports it used chemical weapons on civilians but the bill giving authorization never reached the House or Senate floor.
The U.S. currently has troops in Syria targeting members of ISIS and last April, Trump authorized the military to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase in Homs — the first direct U.S. attack on the Syrian regime.
The latest attack did not go over well with many members of Congress who criticized the president for overstepping his authority by not consulting them.
Assad must be held accountable for his horrific attacks on civilians, but ordering a military strike without a coherent strategy – and without authorization from Congress – is irresponsible and unacceptable.
My thoughts are with our troops and allies in action tonight.
— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) April 14, 2018
By illegally bombing Syria, President Trump has once again denied the American people any oversight or accountability in this endless war. Congress, not the president, has the power to authorize military action. https://t.co/9P25HQ8zq6
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 14, 2018
I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s “Constitution,” but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 14, 2018
The use of nerve gas is a war crime of immense proportion. I support targeted military strikes in Syria, but if there is a major military effort, the President needs to come to Congress. https://t.co/I1tdyp1J2x
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) April 14, 2018
The President’s authority to strike Syria does not exist absent authorization from Congress. The current authorization is based on an AUMF that is nearly two decades old. Without regard to whether Syria should pay a price for using chem weapons. Only congress can declare war.
— Reid Ribble (@RepRibble) April 14, 2018
I believe that America must respond to the vile chemical attack in Syria, but that response must come through congressional approval. Instead, President Trump has once again struck Syria on his own. https://t.co/zJs9R2FE4l
— Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (@RepRoybalAllard) April 14, 2018
In a briefing after Trump’s announcement, Secretary of Defense Mattis argued that the President relied on his Article II powers under the Constitution to authorize the strike. This is the same authority Trump claimed to authorize his 2017 attack.
That rationale has been criticized by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as too expansive. In a letter to former Secretary of State Tillerson, Kaine argues Article II powers are meant to apply to an “immediate threat to the United States or our personnel abroad.”