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 SandersBernard (Bernie) Sanders2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations Americans need an economy that supports more than the 1 percent MORE (I-Vt.) asserted on Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ 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 LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back 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 KinzingerOn The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal House votes to reopen Interior, EPA as shutdown fight wages on 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."