Trump Bombs Syria Hours After 88 Lawmakers Urged Him To First Consult Congress

Jennifer Bendery  HuffPost•April 13, 2018  WASHINGTON ― Dozens of House lawmakers on Friday urged President Donald Trump not to take any military action in Syria without first getting authorization from Congress.
“Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution,” reads a letter signed by 88 Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
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“We stand ready to consider the facts before us and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict,” the letter stated.
Yet hours later, Trump did attack Syria ― without consulting Congress. The United States, joined by France and Britain, launched strikes against Syrian research, storage and military targets.
Republicans on the letter included Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Ted Yoho (Fla.), Raúl Labrador (Idaho), David Schweikert (Ariz.), Mia Love (Utah), Mark Sanford (S.C.), Morgan Griffith (Va.), Andy Biggs (Ky.), Jason Lewis (Minn.), Mo Brooks (Ala.) and Rod Blum (Iowa).
Here’s a copy of the full letter:  In recent days, Trump tweeted about potentially launching missile strikes on the Syrian government in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s latest suspected use of chemical weapons on his own people.
As the House lawmakers pointed out, Trump may not have the constitutional authority to unilaterally bomb Syria without their sign off.
Lawmakers are constitutionally required to authorize any sustained military action. For years, President Barack Obama went around Congress to take military action against the self-described Islamic State by saying he could use a sweeping 2001 authorization for use of military force, or AUMF, to do it. That AUMF, which has no expiration date, allowed then-President George W. Bush to attack anyone connected to Al Qaeda, anywhere, at any time. Obama argued that ISIS was an offshoot of Al Qaeda, so he argued he could invoke the same AUMF.
Trump can’t make that argument for launching missile strikes on Syrian government targets, even if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says it’s fine if he does.
The administration hasn’t even tried to make that case. When Trump directed strikes on a Syrian government airbase in April 2017 ― the first-ever direct military strike by the U.S. against Assad’s regime ― the administration claimed the president had that authority under his presidential powers because it was a limited military action, not because of the Iraq War-era AUMF.
But as lawyers at the nonpartisan Protect Democracy note, U.S. military action in Syria is unlikely to be limited to a single engagement. Instead, they say, it is likely to lead to larger and ongoing conflicts, which sounds a lot more like the beginnings of war than a surgical attack. Hence the growing concerns among lawmakers about Trump’s next step.
Trump received plenty of support from members of his own party Friday night after he announced the attacks. But some were unhappy at not being consulted.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said one night of U.S. airstrikes would not be “a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy” and said Trump must go to Congress to receive congressional authorization “by proposing a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives that keep our military safe and avoid collateral damage to innocent civilians.”
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the letter.
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.

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Russia warns ‘we are being threatened’ after U.S. missile strike on Syria

Oren Dorell, USA TODAY Published 10:29 p.m. ET April 13, 2018 | Updated 11:37 p.m. ET April 13, 2018

President Donald Trump spoke to the nation late Friday on U.S. missile strikes against the Assad regime in response to its purported chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians. (April 13) AP

Syria’s President Bashar Assad announced after a U.S. military strike that his country would respond, while Russia’s ambassador to Washington warned of unspecified “consequences.”
“Good souls will not be humiliated,” Assad said on his official Twitter account.
President Trump on Friday announced that a series of strikes were launched by the United States, France and Britain on Assad’s chemical weapons facilities in Syria. Trump said the attack would be sustained to ensure that Syria does not use chemical weapons to attack civilians.
After the Pentagon said the strikes were over, Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov issued a statement on Twitter accusing the allies of “a pre-designed scenario” against Russia and Syria.
“Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” Antonov said. “All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”
He added: “Insulting the president of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible. The U.S. — the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons — has no moral right to blame other countries.”

Russian military and diplomatic officials warned before Trump ordered a military strike on Syria that they would counter any attack on Syrian forces in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack on April 7.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon on Tuesday had told Lebanon’s Al Manar TV that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted, Reuters reported.
Russian Ambassador to Beirut Alexander Zasypkin cited orders by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If there is a U.S. missile attack, we — in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks — will shoot down U.S. rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles,” Zasypkin told al Manar.
Russian submarines

On Friday, before Trump’s announcement, Russia’s government news site Tass reported that the Russian Navy was monitoring U.S. and NATO ships in the eastern Mediterranean.
Warships and submarines of the Russian naval task force were keeping track at a close distance of U.S. and NATO assault ships and submarines in the area, Tass said, citing military and diplomatic sources.
The Russian navy ships were ordered to monitor the underwater, surface and air situation in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, including approaches and maneuvering of foreign ships in the area near Syria’s Tartus, a port city where Russia has its only foreign base outside of Europe.

Russia in the past week also sought to counter U.S. diplomatic efforts to marshal international support for its condemnation of the Syrian government led byAssad, who the U.S. has concluded ordered the chemical attack that killed dozens of Syrian civilians in the East Goutha suburb of Damascus.
Russia’s diplomats and military officers issued numerous contradictory statements about the chemical attack, saying it didn’t happen, that it launched by Syrian rebels on themselves, and that British intelligence ordered it as a provocation.
Iran’s Fars News Agency reported Friday that Russian fighter jets were patrolling Syrian air space to defend against any attackers.
The Russian aircraft were scrambled in response to reports of seven U.S. spy planes near the coastal regions of Tartus and Lattakia.
The U.S. aircraft were reported flying along the coast near Russia’s Humeimim Military Airport in the southwestern Lattakia province, Fars reported.

 

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Syria ‘chemical attack’: Trump pledges ‘forceful’ US response

The US president has said “nothing’s off the table” – so what options are on the table?
US President Donald Trump has promised a “forceful” response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria, as Western leaders consider what action to take.
“We have a lot of options militarily,” he told reporters. He added that a response would be decided “shortly”.
Mr Trump said the US was getting some “good clarity” on who was responsible for the incident in Douma on Saturday.
Medical sources say dozens were killed in the alleged attack but exact numbers are impossible to verify.
Mr Trump also discussed the incident with French President Emmanuel Macron late on Monday, and both leaders expressed a desire for a “firm response”.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she “utterly condemns” the “barbaric” alleged chemical weapons attack and called for backers of President Bashar al-Assad to be held to account.
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The condemnation from Western leaders follows a tense meeting at the UN Security Council in which the US and Russia traded harsh words over the incident.
Russian representative Vassily Nebenzia said the alleged attack was staged and warned that US military action in response could have “grave repercussions”.
US envoy Nikki Haley said Russia – a Syrian military backer – had the “blood of Syrian children” on its hands and branded President Assad a “monster”.
Ms Haley has called for a vote on Tuesday on a draft resolution to set up a new inquiry into the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
But Russia says it cannot support the proposal because it contains “unacceptable elements”.
What happened on Saturday?
The Syrian-American Medical Society said more than 500 people were brought to medical centres in Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus, with symptoms “indicative of exposure to a chemical agent”.
It said this included breathing difficulties, bluish skin, mouth foaming, corneal burns and “the emission of chlorine-like odour”.
Neither the death toll nor what exactly occurred can be verified as the area is blocked off with access denied.  The estimates of how many people died in the suspected chemical attack range from 42 to more than 60 people, but medical groups say numbers could rise as rescue workers gain access to basements where hundreds of families had sought refuge from bombing.
The French representative at the UN Security Council said poison gas had deliberately been used as it could seep down to the basements.
The US, France and UK have led international condemnation of the alleged attack, with the Syrian government and its Russian backers denying any responsibility.
What did Russia say at the UN?
Mr Nebenzia, presenting Russia’s case that rebels in Douma staged the event for their own ends, painted the incident and its fallout as part of a US-led effort to hurt Russia with a “broad arsenal of methods”, including slander, insults and “hawkish rhetoric”.
In an angry statement, he invited investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to fly to Syria as soon as Tuesday, saying that Russian troops would escort them to the site of the alleged attack.
UK PM condemns ‘barbaric attack’ in Syria
Moscow has said its experts have not found “any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians”.
Mr Nebenzia said the tone taken against Russia had gone beyond what was acceptable even during the Cold War and warned against a US military response.
“Armed force under mendacious pretext against Syria, where, at the request of the legitimate government of a country, Russian troops have been deployed, could lead to grave repercussions,” he said.
What is the wider context?
Tensions between Russia and the West have plunged to their worst level in decades, following the poisoning in March of an ex-spy in England that the UK blamed on Moscow, and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Russia v the West: Is this a new Cold War?
The Cold War explained
The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with what the British government says was a military-grade Novichok nerve agent of a type developed by Russia led to the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western allies, to which Moscow responded in kind.

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