Trump's Power to Launch Nuclear Weapons Under Senate Scrutiny

Sergio Conner
November 14, 2017

The hearing comes as President Donald Trump continues to exchange insults with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has overseen nuclear and missile development programs that have progressed faster than most global weapons experts anticipated.

"We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with USA national security interests", Senator Chris Murphy said.

"This is a system controlled by human beings ... nothing happens automatically", he said, adding that the United States military does not blindly follow orders and a presidential order to employ nuclear weapons must be legal. He will testify alongside General C. Robert Kehler, former commander of the United States Strategic Command, and Brian McKeon, former acting undersecretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Defense.

Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said it's time to review the president's authority to launch a nuclear strike.

In a statement last week, the committee's chairman, Republican Sen.

Mr Kehler said if he were uncertain about its legality, he would consult with his own advisers.

"Then what happens?" asked Sen.

Mr Kehler admitted: "I don't know".

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No Trump administration officials are testifying before the hearing, which is examining the nuclear command and control structure that has served all U.S. presidents.

Corker has become an outspoken critic of the president, although he says Tuesday's hearing was not specific to President Trump.

The authority to launch a nuclear strike has remained with the White House since President Truman ordered dropping atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

"If we are under attack, the president would have the authority under Article 2 to defend the country and there's no distinction between his authority to use conventional or nuclear weapons in response to such an attack", McKeon told lawmakers.

The bill by Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, would require Mr Trump to obtain a declaration of war from Congress before launching a nuclear first-strike. The measures, though, have not advanced in the Republican-controlled Congress. Indeed, a military aide shadows the commander in chief day and night, carrying the black briefcase commonly referred to as the "nuclear football", packed with attack options and other information needed in a national emergency.

The president, as commander in chief, is the sole arbiter or whether to use the USA nuclear arsenal - an issue that hasn't been debated at the congressional level in more than 40 years.

Under current rules, the U.S. president could set a strike in motion by entering the codes into a device called "the football", which travels everywhere with the president. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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