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Bernie Sanders: Trump has no authority to broaden war in Syria

Bernie Sanders: Trump has no authority to broaden war in Syria
© Camille Fine

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration In the final chapter of 2020, we must recommit to repairing our democracy MORE (I-Vt.) asserted on Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE "has no legal authority" to deepen U.S. military involvement in Syria, and that it is ultimately up to Congress to make that decision. 

"President Trump has no legal authority for broadening the war in Syria," Sanders said in a statement. "It is Congress, not the president, who determines whether our country goes to war, and Congress must not abdicate that responsibility.

"If President Trump believes that expanding the war in Syria will bring stability to the region and protect American interests, he should come to Congress with his ideas."

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Sanders's comments came as Trump weighs a potential military response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma over the weekend that left dozens of people dead.

The U.S. has blamed that chemical strike on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Trump said on Monday that he would make a determination on a response within 48 hours.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the president and his advisers are weighing a more aggressive strike than a missile attack on a Syrian air base launched in April 2017 in response to another chemical strike that killed more than 80 civilians.

The 2017 missile strike on Shayrat Air Base caused only modest damage, and administration officials worry that a similar attack would not adequately deter Assad's government from using chemical weapons, the Times reported. 

But Trump has also spoken recently about his desire for an early U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

"I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home," Trump said during a meeting with Baltic leaders at the White House earlier this month. 

A number of lawmakers have demanded in recent days that Trump seek congressional approval for a retaliatory strike on Syria.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Utah) said on Monday that the U.S. should respond to the suspected chemical attack in Douma, but said that "if that response is going to include military force, the president of the United States should come to Congress and ask for authorization before military force is used."

But not all lawmakers think that congressional authorization for a strike in Syria is necessary. Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerGOP lawmaker says colleagues 'waiting' for Trump to come to terms with loss GOP lawmaker: Trump implementing a 'loyalty purge' amid firing of top cybersecurity official House GOP lawmaker: Biden should be recognized as president-elect MORE (R-Ill.) said Tuesday that he believes Trump has the authority to act on his own, at least in a limited capacity. 

"I think on something that’s limited like this he has the authority to act, especially on an issue like enforcing the nonuse of chemical weapons," Kinzinger said on CNN's "New Day."