Lee: War Powers Authority Didn't Exist for Trump to Strike Syria Without Congress

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are seen in the basement of the Capitol before the Senate Policy luncheons on March 20, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) hit back at a White House letter to Congress stating that the administration had authority to order Friday’s airstrikes on chemical weapons production and storage facilities in Syria.


“I directed this action in response to the Syrian government’s continued and unlawful use of chemical weapons, including in the horrific attack in Duma, Syria, on April 7 that injured or killed numerous innocent civilians.  The purpose of this military action was to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian government from using or proliferating chemical weapons,” President Trump wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) per War Powers Resolution requirements.

“I acted pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive and in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States to promote the stability of the region, to deter the use and proliferation of chemical weapons, and to avert a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe,” Trump added. “The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests.”


Lee fired back in a statement today that “no president of the United States, no matter party or political ideology, has the authority to unilaterally start a war.”

“While the president has the authority under the War Powers Act to respond when the U.S. is under attack or in imminent danger, such circumstances did not exist with regard to Syria,” the Utah Republican added. “Promoting regional stability, mitigating humanitarian catastrophe, and deterring the use of chemical weapons might be important foreign policy goals, but if they are to be pursued with military force, a president must first seek congressional authorization.”

Lee found common cause with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who stressed in a Friday statement that “it is Congress, not the president, which has the constitutional responsibility for making war.”

‘The international community must uphold the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, but it is unclear how President Trump’s illegal and unauthorized strikes on Syria tonight will achieve that goal,” Sanders added.


Rep. Justin Amash (R-Minn.) charged that lawmakers were being hypocritical about their demands for congressional authorization then and now.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said on the Senate floor today that “it was time to act.”

“The tactics the Assad regime has employed to consolidate gains and terrorize the people of Syria have stood in defiance of the clear U.S. position that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable,” McConnell said.


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