If President Donald Trump has secret powers that undermine Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) wants it to stop.
In April of last year, Trump ordered airstrikes against Syria in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons but provided no legal justification for the attack. Now Kaine is demanding that the 7-page memo that the White House has kept under wraps since the attack as it supposedly outlines increased executive powers to initiate war.
Per the Constitution, the executive branch cannot declare war without permission from Congress. This limitation extends to “acts of war,” such as pre-emptive and retaliatory strikes. If there is a memo granting the president permission to avoid the Congress, he could easily use those powers to start wars against Iran and North Korea.
As it stands, Trump has demanded military options against both nations from the Pentagon, which Secretary of Defense James Mattis has been resisting for months out of fear that Trump will use them.
Kaine wants the secret memo that Trump is basing his new powers on released, and he wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlining his concerns.
“The fact that there is a lengthy memo with a more detailed legal justification that has not been shared with Congress, or the American public, is unacceptable,” Kaine wrote. “I am also concerned that this legal justification may now become precedent for additional executive unilateral military action, including this week’s U.S. airstrikes in Syria against pro-Assad forces or even an extremely risky ‘bloody nose’ strike against North Korea.”
No president should have war powers that go beyond Congress’ power to declare war. The War Powers Act of 1973 exists because former President Richard Nixon ordered secret strikes against Cambodia during the Vietnam War without telling Congress. If Trump is conducting similar attacks without notifying or getting approval from Congress, the American people have the right to know.
If Trump can use a mere memo to wage war, nothing stops him from attacking Iran or North Korea. An attack on either country would be catastrophic and result in unacceptable casualties on both sides.
Congress needs to take back its power to declare war, especially from a narcissistic thin-skinned wannabe dictator like Trump.
This country is already in staggering debt because of the wars we are in now, and it’s only compounded by Trump’s tax law that gives away trillions of dollars to the rich and corporations. American troops have already sacrificed enough for this country. More wars would spread our forces thin and create more stress among the ranks.
If there is to be a war, it needs to be for a damn good reason, and not just because Trump wants to use the military as a toy.
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