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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) called for President Trump to “refrain from using military action against Syria that would expand and escalate the conflict, and likely result in additional civilian and military casualties, more refugees, and fewer resources to invest in rebuilding American communities, and instead work toward peace.”
Rep. Gabbard became a signatory on a bipartisan letter to be sent to President Trump urging him to uphold the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution by obtaining the required authorization from Congress before ordering a military attack against Syria. The constitutionality of a Trump-ordered attack was the focus of Gabbard’s questioning of Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Washington D.C. on Thursday. Here is a transcript:
GABBARD: Thank you. Thank you, gentlemen, for your service. You know, the President has indicated recently his intention to launch U.S. military attacks against Syria. Article one of the Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has not done so against the Syrian government. Section 3 of the War Powers Resolution requires the president to consult with Congress before introducing U.S. Armed Forces into situations of hostilities. Section 2 of the War Powers Resolution clarifies the constitutional powers of the President as commander-in-chief. In article 2, which you referenced, Secretary Mattis, to introduce forces into hostilities only pursuant to 1.) a declaration of war, 2.) specific statutory authorization or 3.) a national emergency created by an attack upon the U.S., its territories, possessions or Armed Forces.
Syria’s not declared war against the U.S. or threatened the U.S. The launch of 59 missiles against Syria by Trump last year was illegal and did not meet any of those criteria in the War Powers Resolution. The consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 which was signed into law by President Trump states that none of the funds made available by this Act may be used with respect to Syria in contravention of the War Powers Resolution, including for the introduction of U.S. Armed Military Forces into hostilities in Syria.
My question is, will the President uphold the Constitution, the War Powers Resolution, and comply with the law that he signed – that he signed – by obtaining authorization from Congress before launching U.S. military attacks against Syria.
MATTIS: Congresswoman, we have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria. I think that when you look back at President Obama sending the U.S. troops into Syria at the time he did, he also had to deal with this type of situation. Because we were going after a named terrorist group that was not actually named in the AUMF that put them in. This is a complex area, I’ll be the first to admit.
GABBARD: It is it is simple, however, what the Constitution requires. So while you’re correct in saying the President has not yet made a decision, my question is will he abide by the Constitution and comply with the law?
MATTIS: I believe that the President will carry out his duties under the Constitution to protect the country.
GABBARD: What would the objective of an attack on Syria be and how does that serve the interests of the American people?
MATTIS: I don’t want to talk about a specific attack that is not yet in the offing, knowing that we these are decisions – this would be pre-decisional. Again, the president has not made that decision. However looking at the Chemical Warfare Convention I think it’s in the, by far in the best interest of civilization, certainly the best interest of America, that that convention be obeyed by the nations that have signed it. And what has happened in Salisbury, England and now has happened in Syria again shows that this is not an idle concern.
GABBARD: So if, if the decision is made – as you have stated publicly, you’re laying or all the options on the table for the President – if the decision is made to launch a military attack against Syria, Russia has already responded saying that they would respond to our U.S. strike. As this action is considered can you justify for the American people how going to war with Russia over Syria serves the interests of the American people?
MATTIS: No congresswoman I can’t answer that question. I’m not ready to speculate that that would happen.
GABBARD: Would you not say that it is a highly likely occurrence given what Russia has stated directly? That they will respond?
MATTIS: No congresswoman, I would not. And there’s a lot of ways to respond to the chemical the violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention diplomatically, economically, militarily, that taken in total would represent, I think, what we have to do in this world if we’re going to turn it over in in accordance with international norms and international law.
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