Republicans and Democrats blast Trump for bombing Syria without legal authority

"These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless."

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks as he speaks to the nation, announcing military action against Syria for the recent apparent gas attack on its civilians, at the White House, on April 13, 2018, in Washington, DC. President Trump announced that a joint operation of "precision strikes" is underway in Syria with armed forces from the United Kingdom and France.  (Photo by Mike Theiler - Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks as he speaks to the nation, announcing military action against Syria for the recent apparent gas attack on its civilians, at the White House, on April 13, 2018, in Washington, DC. President Trump announced that a joint operation of "precision strikes" is underway in Syria with armed forces from the United Kingdom and France. (Photo by Mike Theiler - Pool/Getty Images)

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. 

Advertisement

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.

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.

Advertisement

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.

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.

Advertisement

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.”