Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions

Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions
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President Obama's deputy national security adviser says in a new interview that the threat of impeachment "was a factor" in Obama's decision not to pursue a tougher intervention policy in Syria.

"We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment," Ben Rhodes told Politico Magazine.

When asked to elaborate, the president's adviser said that Republicans, including then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE (R-Ohio), made it clear that premature military action without congressional approval would be unconstitutional.

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"That was a factor. Go back and read the letters from BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE, letters from the Republican members of Congress. They laid down markers that this would not be constitutional. If we got drawn into a conflict in Syria without congressional authorization, without international authorization, without international support, you can see very clearly how that could have completely derailed this entire presidency," Rhodes told the publication.
 
Rhodes also defended Obama's actions in Syria and the "red line" policy that the president publicly announced in 2012. After stating that use or movement of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would cross a "red line" requiring intervention, the Obama administration did not act when evidence showed that Syria used chemical weapons against its civilians.
 
"Well, drawing the line actually did provide the basis for a diplomatic effort to remove the chemical weapons program peacefully," Rhodes argued, referencing a diplomatic move spearheaded by Russia to avoid a military conflict in the region. 
 
"I don’t know how we could have started a military conflict with [Syrian leader Bashar al-] Assad that we didn’t feel compelled to try to finish by taking out Assad. Even if you do that, there’s no reason to believe that people would have simply reconciled with one another because the United States was a party to the conflict," he said. 
 
Rhodes also noted that a military intervention had very little international support and was only backed by France.
 
"[N]ever mind the fact that we had no international support. The only country in the world that was prepared to join us was France. And we had no domestic legal basis," he said.