Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) confronted Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo at his confirmation hearing over a potential U.S. strike against Syria.
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, the CIA director was asked whether he believed President Donald Trump had the constitutional authority to bomb Syrian government targets without congressional approval.
“Does he have the authority absent congressional action to bomb Assad’s forces or installations?” Paul asked.
Sen. Rand Paul questioning Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo on whether he believes Trump has the constitutional authority to strike Syria pic.twitter.com/YDQor9g15o
— Mikael Thalen (@MikaelThalen) April 12, 2018
Pompeo replied that while the administration could work alongside Congress, ultimately he believed Trump could launch an attack without the legislature.
“Yes, I believe the president has the domestic authority to do that,” Pompeo said. “I don’t think that has been disputed by Republicans or Democrats throughout an extended period of time.”
Paul countered by pointing to the country’s founders as one group opposed to such actions.
“Actually, it was disputed mostly by our Founding Fathers who believed they gave that authority to Congress,” Paul said. “And actually they’re uniformly opposed to the Executive Branch having that power.”
The tense back-and-forth comes as the Trump administration debates whether to carry out air strikes against the Assad regime in the wake of a chemical weapons attack in Douma Saturday.
The Trump administration and numerous U.S. allies have blamed the Assad government, a claim both Syria and its ally Russia deny.
Trump on Wednesday threatened Russia over Twitter, stating that missiles would soon “be coming” to the war-torn country.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'” Trump said. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
Reports from Russian media alleged the country’s Ministry of Defense shortly after began communicating with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in an attempt to deescalate.
“Russia expects that the US will share coordinates of their targets in Syria to avoid loss of life on the Russian side,” Russia analyst Yury Barmin said on Twitter. “At the same time Moscow has already prepared a list of measures they will employ in the event of military escalation.”
The following morning Trump appeared to soften the tone, but did not rule out a strike.
“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” Trump said on Twitter. “In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our ‘Thank you America?'”
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis claimed Thursday that despite Trump’s initial tweet, no decision had yet been made on strikes against the Assad regime.