On April 7, 2017, President Trump unilaterally sent 59 Tomahawk missiles "in retaliation" for a chemical weapons assault on the people of Syria. He did so from his golf resort, while eating chocolate cake, and surrounded by political advisers - without the consent of Congress.
The President took it upon himself to act, personally. He said that he acted based on his emotional reaction to seeing photographs of children and babies who died in the Syrian chemical weapons attack. His son Erik Trump reported that the President acted because his daughter was distraught after the attack.
There are two problems with this. First, both the President and his son reported that his Tomahawk strike was an unbridled emotional response to a poorly understood world event, and neither of them claimed there was a plan or any purpose greater than retaliatory destruction. Second, the President made no attempt to coordinate with Congress, and had no authorization for his action.
In the week since that military strike, the President has refused to explain himself to Congress. Instead he made a major bombing attack on Afghanistan. Again without authorization. After that, the President put our military forces in a threatening posture against North Korea creating a dangerous international situation. And again, he did this without congressional authorization.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires the President to get authorization from Congress for any new use of military force. In other words, it serves to put the breaks on impulsive actions. President Trump refuses to comply with this law. He refuses to consult with Congress, and he had no authorization for what he did. Instead, President Trump cagily told reporters that he likes to be unpredictable and refused to explain himself to Congress or the media.
Although President Trump long maintained his position that military first strike engagement with Syria was absolutely wrong, he attacked them, and his emotionally driven strike was made in contravention of his long considered position. Then, within days, he followed up with an unexplained attack on Afghanistan, and also started an action against North Korea. Impulse, emotional distress, and retaliation have been the driving forces for the President's decisions, not strategy or policy.
President Trump, who explicitly told the world that his actions are being governed by his emotional state, has the nuclear codes with him for use whenever his feelings move him to do so. There is nothing to prevent his emotionally driven finger from pushing the button.
Previous administrations have faced this precarious and dangerous situation in the past. During the Nixon Presidency, due to serious concerns over the president's emotional instability, there were plans, not codified and not quite legal, for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to check with Schlesinger or Kissinger in order to slow down or interfere with the President's nuclear authority, and before carrying out any orders regarding nuclear weapons. Those informal plans ended with Nixon's resignation.
It is outrageous that in a country based on checks and balances, our country has no formal emergency measure for overriding Presidential orders of nuclear deployment. We have no protection from a President who, based solely on his impulsive emotional state of mind, could commit our country to the use of nuclear weapons, and the most disastrous outcome possible.
President Trump's decision to ignore the War Powers Resolution is unacceptable. He ducked responsibility and announced that his capricious actions are governed by his fragile emotions. His military actions this week were irresponsible, unpredictable, and unexplained, and he has placed the United States in a precarious and vulnerable position.
We call upon Congress to enact emergency measures granting the Secretary of State a mandatory consultation role, with the authority to override, for any Presidential decision to use nuclear military weapons when there is a question of his mental instability. And we call upon Congress to require Presidential compliance with the War Powers Resolution requirement for congressional authorization of military actions.