Tim Kaine: President Trump Does Not Have Any Legal Authority To Attack Syrian Government

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Sen. Tim Kaine warns President Trump that he does not have authority to strike Syrian targets without Congressional approval.

"The president currently does not have any legal authority to wage war against nation states," Kaine said, citing "missile strikes against Syria for example," without approval from Congress.

Kaine added: "Our committee chair, Senator Corker, has announced that we will take up an authorization for the military action against the non-state actors, ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban shortly."





"I voted in August of 2014 that the United States should take military action against Syria for gassing its own citizens. There needs to be a consequence for that, but it can't be the president just deciding on his own without Congress. If we let President Trump unilaterally initiate a military campaign against Syria, what's to stop him from doing it against North Korea, or Iran, or some other nation," Kaine added. "Particularly when he's so stressed out and rambling and worried about a domestic investigation into the legitimacy of his presidency. This is exactly the reason that Congress needs to quit acting like an Article 2.5 branch and start acting like an Article I branch again when it comes to war making powers."

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR: Senator Kaine, Syria, a president clearly preoccupied with his legal difficulties or his lawyer's legal difficulties. He addressed that yesterday in the rambling address before the Joint Chiefs and everybody else in the White House. The authorization for the use of military forces has not been renegotiated or rewritten in nearly 15 years.

KAINE: Yes. Longer than that. Right.

BARNICLE: What can you do to enhance the role of the United States Senate, the Congress specifically, in guaranteeing more safeguards than are usually there in terms of use of force?

KAINE: Mike, that's a -- that's a passion of mine. Senator Jeff Flake and I have had a bipartisan authorization focusing upon all of the military action we're currently taking against non-state actors. The president currently does not have any legal authority to wage war against nation states, missile strikes against Syria for example, without coming to Congress. But our committee chair, Senator Corker, has announced that we will take up an authorization for the military action against the non-state actors, ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban shortly. And I have been working very significantly with Senator Corker to try to come up with a proposal that will limit -- rewrite and limit the 2001 authorization and put more constraints on the when, where and who we are fighting against. That 2001 authorization is a complete blank check to the president and it's long past time that we impose some reasonable limitations.

BARNICLE: So what's -- what's your level of concern right now about this imminent apparent strike of something will happen with regard to Syria? What's your level of concern about that and other things?

KAINE: Mike, I'm very concerned about it for this reason. I voted in August of 2014 that the United States should take military action against Syria for gassing its own citizens. There needs to be a consequence for that, but it can't be the president just deciding on his own without Congress. If we let President Trump unilaterally initiate a military campaign against Syria, what's to stop him from doing it against North Korea, or Iran, or some other nation, particularly when he's so stressed out and rambling and worried about a domestic investigation into the legitimacy of his presidency. This is exactly the reason that Congress needs to quit acting like an Article 2.5 branch and start acting like an Article I branch again when it comes to war making powers.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CO-ANCHOR: Senator Kaine, it's Willie Geist. Good to see you this morning.

KAINE: Hey, Willie. Thanks.

GEIST: You guys -- as you know well, President Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, believed that they had 100 percent, in their words, of chemical weapons out of Syria, that their policy had worked. Clearly that was wrong we know now. How did they get it so wrong there?

KAINE: Well, it was clear that massive amounts of the chemical weapons stock pile was destroyed. Virginians were involved in that effort to destroy chemical weapons. But there were both chemical weapons they spirited away. And then there's also -- Syria uses some kinds of chemicals that were not officially on the banned list but that nevertheless have significant health impacts when they're used. And when a nation is using chemical weapons against their own civilians, it's a humanitarian disaster. There has to be a robust response. That's why I voted for pinpoint military action in 2014 and I'd be very open to it again. I just don't think the president can do it on his own.

GEIST: But do you agree that the Obama administration had missteps there and didn't fully take care of the problem the way they declared publicly?

KAINE: It's clear that while much of the weapons stockpile was destroyed, other aspects of it were either hidden away or they've been remanufactured since. And that has led to this set of just horrific atrocities committed by the Assad regime.

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