Boehner presses Obama during call for legal justification for strike in Syria

President Obama called Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday to discuss the status of deliberations over Syria, one day after the top House Republican demanded Obama "make the case" for military action in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack. 

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"During the call, the Speaker sought answers to concerns outlined in his letter to the president yesterday, including the legal justification for any military strike, the policy and precedent such a response would set, and the objectives and strategy for any potential action," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.

"Only the president can answer these questions, and it is clear that further dialogue and consultation with Congress, as well as communication with the American public, will be needed.”

In a letter sent Wednesday, Boehner said that information provided so far to key lawmakers had not done enough to answer concerns about the administration's strategy.

“I respectfully request that you, as our country’s commander-in-chief, personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy," Boehner wrote.

The letter went on to detail 14 questions that the House Republican wanted answered, including queries about the cost of a potential strike and how the administration would minimize the risk of empowering Islamist militants in the region.

But in the letter Boehner stopped short of demanding a congressional vote on possible military action.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that the administration had engaged with a "ongoing, robust consultation" with Capitol Hill.

"As the president contemplates what kind of response is appropriate to the situation that we've seen in Syria, the president believes it's important for us to consult with Congress," Earnest said. "We've done that in a robust way that has involved reading out some of the conversations that the president and others have had with our allies across the globe, that it has involved the sharing of some intelligence. ... It also includes a conversation about some of the options that are available to the president, in terms of a specific response to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons."

The White House will also host an unclassified conference call for key lawmakers Thursday evening, in which Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are expected to brief lawmakers on the situation. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. James Winnefeld, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and national security adviser Susan Rice will also be on the call.