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Sen. Mike Lee questions president's authority to attack Syria

By Dennis Romboy, KSL | Posted - Apr 16th, 2018 @ 5:59pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee continues to question the authority President Donald Trump cites to justify the U.S. missile strike on Syria last week.

"While the president has the authority under the War Powers Act to respond when the U.S. is under attack or in imminent danger, such circumstances did not exist with regard to Syria," the Utah Republican said Monday.

"Promoting regional stability, mitigating humanitarian catastrophe and deterring the use of chemical weapons might be important foreign policy goals, but if they are to be pursued with military force, a president must first seek congressional authorization."

No president, no matter party or political ideology, has the right to start a war, Lee said.

The United States and European allies struck Syrian research, storage and military targets in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that killed more than 40 people.

"The purpose of this military action was to degrade the Syrian military's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian government from using or proliferating chemical weapons," Trump wrote in a letter to congressional leaders Sunday.

Trump wrote that he acted pursuant to his constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as commander-in-chief in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.

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Specifically, he said the air strikes were to promote the stability of the region, deter the use and proliferation of chemical weapons, and to avert a worsening of the region's current humanitarian catastrophe.

"The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests," Trump wrote.

Lee said last week the president should ask Congress before using military force in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons.

Rep. Mia Love also has weighed in. The Utah Republican is one of 88 lawmakers to sign a letter urging the president to secure approval from the U.S. House and Senate before taking any further action.

"We owe it to our men and women in uniform," she said in a tweet.

The letter acknowledges that Trump has the authority to act in emergencies. But in the absence of a direct threat to the U.S. and without prior approval from Congress, the letter states, military engagement in Syria threatens the separation of powers.

Contributing: Annie Knox

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