Amid all of the uproar over possible retaliatory strikes against Iran in response to the shoot-down of an unarmed U.S. drone, a number of Democrats — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — arrogantly claimed that President Donald Trump needed to first obtain authorization from Congress before conducting any sort of military action whatsoever against the rival nation.
But Trump just made it clear that, while he appreciates the input of Congress and fully intends to keep legislators posted about what is going on, he doesn’t actually need permission before taking action to respond to attacks on the U.S. and American interests.
Putting it bluntly
In an exclusive interview on Monday with The Hill outside of the White House, President Trump was asked if he believed he had the authority to launch military action against another nation, in this case, Iran, without first asking Congress for permission to do so, and he replied in the affirmative.
“But we’ve been keeping Congress abreast of what we’re doing… and I think it’s something they appreciate,” Trump said. “I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it legally.”
Trump initially gave the go-ahead for the U.S. military to conduct retaliatory strikes against Iran over the shot-down drone but called off the strikes just before they were launched when he decided they would be a disproportionate response to Iran’s actions.
“We were pretty close to maybe making a decision to strike. Then I decided not to do it. Nobody went out, by the way. I was going to make that decision by a certain time, and I decided not to do it because it wasn’t really proportional,” Trump said.
With regard to the assertion by Pelosi and others that Trump is required to obtain congressional approval before initiating any sort of hostilities against Iran, or any other nation that had acted against the U.S., Trump said, “I disagree. Most people seem to disagree.”
“They have ideas. They’re intelligent people. They’ll come up with some thoughts,” the president said with regard to Congress. “I actually learned a couple of things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress.”
Trump was referring to a meeting with top congressional leaders on Thursday in the White House Situation Room to discuss the developing situation with Iran. Pelosi told reporters on Friday that Trump had given no indication to Congress that he intended to launch the strikes that were nevertheless called off at the last moment.
Similarly, Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed that Democrats had informed the president that he would need to garner their authorization before launching any such strikes.
Obviously, Trump sees things differently and has no intention of seeking permission from Congress before taking action to defend the nation against an attack.
Trump is right, and it has long been established that while authorization from Congress is indeed necessary before launching major or sustained military offensives and strikes against an enemy, the chief executive and commander in chief already has full authority to take defensive or counteractions first and notify Congress later in response to an actual attack — such as a shoot-down of a drone — or threat of imminent attack against the United States.