WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today on Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan on CBS News, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, reiterated that President Trump’s actions in Syria are illegal and reckless because he failed to get Congress’s approval or present a broader strategy. Kaine cited the risks of President Trump ignoring the powers set out in the Constitution, asking “What's to stop him from starting a bombing campaign against Iran or North Korea or some other nation?” In addition to the lack of legal justification for the airstrikes, Kaine highlighted the importance of Congress weighing in on military action to ensure that the troops risking their lives know that Congress and the country have deemed the mission to be in the national interest.
Excerpt from Kaine on Face the Nation:
“It's very, very clear, Congress has power to declare war and only Congress. So if you are initiating war against a sovereign nation like Syria that hadn't declared war on United States, it’s only Congress that can do it. President Trump is not a king, he's a president. He's supposed to come to Congress to seek permission to initiate a war. As Ambassador Haley said, they had been following these chemical weapons attacks for months. They clearly had time to come to Congress to seek our permission. And, this is really important, Margaret, it’s not just about the Constitution. It's about the value underlying the Constitution. The framers basically said, if we're going to order our troops to risk their lives, put them in a situation where they can kill others, be killed or wounded themselves, then there has to be a debate and vote by Congress to say, this is in the national interest. The President is flouting this and saying, ‘I can do it without Congress.’ What's to stop him from starting a bombing campaign against Iran or North Korea or some other nation? – saying, ‘I think it's in the national interest.’ It's illegal because he didn't come and ask permission. Moreover, it's reckless because as you pointed out there isn't a strategy. We need to defeat ISIS. But we hear different things from the Administration: are we staying there to topple Assad? To counter Iran? To check Russia? To help the Kurds? To buttress Israel? To rebuild our relationships with Turkey? They haven't laid out a strategy and military action shouldn't be taken as a one-off. It should be taken as part of a strategy.”
For years, Kaine has been outspoken about Presidents’ efforts to expand the use of military force without congressional authorization. Kaine has said that Bashar al-Assad must face consequences for his heinous war crimes, and voted in 2013 to give President Obama the authority to strike Syria after he presented Congress with a strategy. In December, Kaine wrote a letter to the Trump Administration requesting information on U.S. strategy in Syria, expressing concern over reports that the U.S. military might now be used to pressure the Syrian government, target Iran and its proxies, and engage other entities not covered under the 2001 AUMF. In January, Kaine spoke out against the Trump Administration’s decision to keep U.S. troops in Syria beyond the counter-ISIS mission and in February, he raised concerns again over recent U.S. airstrikes absent a clear strategy. Kaine has repeatedly demanded that the Trump Administration release a secret memo that, according to reports, the Administration has created detailing the legal basis for airstrikes last April against the Shayrat military airbase in Syria. He has yet to receive a response.