Se­nate dead­lock on re­strain­ing Trump’s pow­ers

Manawatu Standard - - World -

UNITED STATES: Sen­a­tors try­ing to pre­vent Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump from launch­ing an un­pro­voked nu­clear at­tack were stymied yes­ter­day, af­ter a panel of ex­perts warned them against rewrit­ing laws to re­strain a com­man­der-inchief many worry is im­pul­sive and un­pre­dictable enough to start a dev­as­tat­ing in­ter­na­tional cri­sis.

Se­nate for­eign re­la­tions com­mit­tee chair­man Bob Corker, who has said Trump’s threats to global ri­vals could put the coun­try ‘‘on the path to World War III’’, be­gan yes­ter­day’s ses­sion warn­ing of the in­her­ent dan­ger in a sys­tem where the pres­i­dent has ‘‘sole au­thor­ity’’ to give launch or­ders there are ‘‘no way to re­voke’’.

By the time Corker emerged from the hear­ing – the first to ad­dress the pres­i­dent’s nu­clear au­thor­ity in over four decades – he was at a loss for what to do next.

‘‘I do not see a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion to­day. That doesn’t mean, over the course of the next sev­eral months, one might not de­velop, but I don’t see it to­day.’’

Trump’s shift­ing pos­ture on how to ad­dress nu­clear threats has made both Repub­li­can and Demo­crat law­mak­ers un­easy, par­tic­u­larly as the cri­sis over North Korea’s am­bi­tions es­ca­lates.

Repub­li­cans and Democrats crit­i­cised Trump ear­lier this year for promis­ing to use ‘‘fire and fury’’ against the regime in Py­ongyang if it made any more nu­clear threats against the US; more re­cently, they have ques­tioned him for tak­ing to Twit­ter to call North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ‘‘short and fat’’.

‘‘We are con­cerned that [Trump] is so volatile, has a de­ci­sion-mak­ing process that is so quixotic, that he might or­der a nu­clear strike that is wildly out of step with US in­ter­ests,’’ said Demo­crat Sen­a­tor Chris Mur­phy, one of sev­eral sen­a­tors ex­plor­ing how to pre­vent the pres­i­dent from launch­ing a first nu­clear strike with­out the per­mis­sion of Congress.

For­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials warned that chang­ing the law to pre­vent the ad­min­is­tra­tion from do­ing some­thing rash could dra­mat­i­cally back­fire.

‘‘If we were to change the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process be­cause of a distrust of this pres­i­dent, that would be an un­for­tu­nate de­ci­sion for the next pres­i­dent,’’ said Brian Mckeon, who served as act­ing un­der­sec­re­tary for pol­icy at the De­fence De­part­ment dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The ex­perts at­tempted to re­as­sure sen­a­tors that there are pro­cesses in place to en­sure many sea­soned mil­i­tary and le­gal ex­perts re­view nu­clear or­ders be­fore they are acted upon.

That ex­pla­na­tion did not sat­isfy com­mit­tee Democrats, who in­sisted that Trump’s be­hav­iour, and what they say is his habit of nom­i­nat­ing and hir­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who de­fer to his world view, means any in­ter­nal re­sis­tance ‘‘does not of­fer real re­sis­tance if the pres­i­dent ab­so­lutely in­sists upon his way,’’ said Sen­a­tor Ed­ward Markey.

‘‘It should be the con­gres­sional pre­rog­a­tive to de­clare nu­clear war,’’ added Markey, who has writ­ten a bill to ban the pres­i­dent from be­ing able to launch a first nu­clear strike against North Korea with­out the au­tho­ri­sa­tion of Congress. – Wash­ing­ton Post

Bob Corker

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