Fearing war by tweet, Dems press for limits on Trump's powers

Fearing war by tweet, Dems press for limits on Trump's powers
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Democratic war veterans in Congress are calling for new restraints on President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Gov. Ron DeSantis more popular in Florida than Trump Sotomayor accuses Supreme Court of bias in favor of Trump administration MORE’s military powers, warning that the president’s itchy Twitter finger could launch a war. 

Pointing to Trump’s recent tweets threatening missile strikes on Syria, the Democrats are urging Congress to pass a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) as a check on the president’s impulses.

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“If you keep tweeting this, at some point, a country may deem that as necessary for them to execute the necessary preemptive action,” Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoOne lawmaker gets engaged, another married around Valentine's Day Stage production 'Americano!' tells the life and struggles of a 'Dreamer' Democratic lawmaker says Trump 'doesn't have full command' on Iran MORE (D-Ariz.), an Iraq War veteran, said Friday. “Maybe it’s not Russia this time, but maybe it’s North Korea. North Korea has always had a hair-trigger. Let’s say the president tweets something out, if they find it provocative, we might find ourselves in a war … over 280 characters.  

“That’s not how you govern. That’s not how you run your military. It’s certainly not how you run your country.”

Rep. Mike ThompsonCharles (Mike) Michael ThompsonPelosi digs in on impeachment rules fight House votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday MORE (D-Calif.), a veteran of the Vietnam War, delivered a similar warning. 

“The idea that he would do serious matters over … Twitter without the advice of your advisers, without the advice of the military, without working with Congress, should worry every American across our great country,” Thompson said.  

“It’s got to stop.”

The Syria crisis has escalated since the weekend, when a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb reportedly killed at least 40 people. On Wednesday, Trump responded by tweeting that U.S. missiles aimed at Syria "will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'" 

On Thursday, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Why US democracy support matters Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul MORE attempted to walk back any immediate military response, telling members of the House Armed Services Committee that no decisions had been finalized.  

“Today our president did say that he’s not made a decision,” he said. 

Mattis is reportedly seeking more certainty that Syrian President Bashar Assad was behind the chemical attacks before responding with force.

Rep. Salud CarbajalSalud CarbajalLawmakers with first-hand experience using food stamps call on Trump not to cut program House Democrat: 'Trump needs to give more consideration to the safety of our troops' Lawmakers react, predict Trump's next move MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Armed Services panel who served in the Marines during the first Gulf War, lamented the messaging gap between Trump and his advisers.

“Clearly the administration’s adults were in our committee hearing, not in the White House,” Carbajal said. “This just reflects an ongoing pattern of erratic behavior by this president — not cohesive, not strategic — that only puts our women and men in uniform in danger.”

Gallego offered a much more damning assessment of the reason for the divide between Trump and his Cabinet. 

“The president’s a horrible president. He doesn’t know how to govern; he doesn’t know how to work with his Cabinet; he doesn’t know how to work with professionals,” Gallego said. 

“He just spouts at the mouth like a drunkard. That’s the reality of what we’re dealing with.”

On Thursday, Trump walked back his earlier threat of strikes on Syria. 

"Never said when an attack on Syria would take place,” he tweeted. “Could be very soon or not so soon at all!"

The inconsistent messages from the president are part of the reason the Democrats are seeking a new AUMF to govern the Syria crisis. Congress passed the existing war-powers resolution in 2001, following the attacks of 9/11, and many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say it needs updating to fit the current conflict — an idea shot down by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Trump doubles down on Neil Cavuto attacks: 'Will he get the same treatment as' Shep Smith? Trump lashes out at Fox News coverage: 'I won every one of my debates' MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday. 

“The existing AUMF gives him the authority he needs to do what he may or may not do,” Ryan said.

The Democrats quickly condemned Ryan’s position. Thompson said the blanket opposition to a new AUMF among GOP leaders marks “a huge step backwards” in terms of Congress asserting its constitutional power to declare war. Former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE (R-Ohio), though he never pressed hard for a new AUMF, had nonetheless endorsed the notion that it was needed.  

“If you just refuse to take it up, refuse to do your job, refuse to bring measures to the floor for a vote or to the committee for a hearing, yes, it’s been a huge step backwards,” Thompson said. 

“War is not a reality television show, and it should not be treated as a reality television show. And certainly not by the commander in chief of the greatest country in the world.”

Gallego also raised concerns with Mattis’s recent testimony, saying it offers the Pentagon broad powers to launch military strikes anyplace in the world where U.S. troops are stationed. 

“Basically it would open up a whole world for us to attack. Because we have troops in the field does not mean we actually have the authority, in my opinion, for us to be launching weapons into a country that wasn’t covered by the [2001] AUMF,” he said. 

“That is a new explanation that I have never heard of — a new policy that I’ve never seen before — and I think that needs further explanation before we go on and do anything else.”