Congressman Nadler Statement on President Trump’s "Illegal and Unconstitutional" Military Strike on Syria

Apr 7, 2017 Issues: Trump, Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs/Israel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement after yesterday’s U.S. military strike targeting a Syrian government airfield in response to President Assad’s deadly chemical weapon attack earlier this week:

“President Bashar al-Assad’s recent use of chemical weapons against a civilian population is the latest demonstration of his regime’s disregard for human life and continued violation of legal and moral codes.  Over the past few years, the civil war in Syria has exhibited horrific scenes of violence and misery, including hundreds of thousands killed and millions more forced to flee as refugees.  There is zero justification for targeting innocent men, women and children with deadly poison gas.  Without equivocation, the unspeakable human atrocities perpetrated by the Assad Regime deserve total condemnation. 

“While the United States has a moral duty to react to the atrocities perpetrated by the Assad Regime, yesterday’s air strikes represent a new course of military action that required prior Congressional authorization.  The Constitution clearly grants Congress the power to declare war and grants the President the power to decide how to wage a congressionally declared war.  The President has no legitimate power to initiate a war with a foreign state, absent an imminent threat to the United States that does not allow time for Congress to act.  In recent decades, the threat of imminent and rapid attack by bombers and missiles has greatly eroded this Constitutional framework.  Presidents have used alleged imminent threats to drag the country into war without Congressional approval.  But where, as here, there is no imminent threat to the United States, Congress should have been asked to authorize military action against Syria in advance. 

“The President’s action in attacking Syria without Congressional authorization was clearly illegal and unconstitutional. Our action against Libya in 2012 without an imminent threat to the United States and without prior Congressional approval was similarly illegal and unconstitutional, as I said at the time.  It is essential that the power to decide whether or not to take the country to war rest with the people, through their representatives in Congress, as the framers intended, rather than in any one person.

“Furthermore, while it is heartening to know that President Trump was moved by photos of slain Syrian children earlier this week, there have been countless images over the past few years of children laying face down on sandy shores or floating lifeless in the water as they flee the devastations of war at home.  Yet the President’s approach to the Syrian refugee crisis flies in the face of the moral decency he cites as the reason to launch a military strike against Assad.  I hope President Trump develops the same sense of moral decency when dealing with the Syrian refugees fleeing from Assad’s brutality.”

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