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Senate committee considers Trump's authority to launch nuclear weapons

14 November 2017

"This continues a series of hearings to examine these issues and will be the first time since 1976 that this committee or our House counterparts have looked specifically at the authority and process for using US nuclear weapons", Corker, who is from Tennessee, said in his statement.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, continued to push for instituting limits on the White House's authority to launch a nuclear first strike Tuesday, contending that Congress - not the president - should have the constitutional power to declare nuclear war.

Corker, one of Trump's sharpest critics from his own party, said Congress needed to explore the "realities" of the nuclear strike system. "Once that order is given and verified, there is no way to revoke it".

"I would like to be able to tell my constituents and the American people we have a system in place that prevents an impulsive and irrational decision to use nuclear weapons", Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said at the outset of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. The Tennessee Republican, who said he won't seek re-election next year, has had a public feud with Trump, calling the White House an "adult day-care center" and saying the USA secretaries of state and defense are "the people that help separate our country from chaos".

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Mr Trump has recently been taunting North Korea and vowed to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" on the rogue nation if its nuclear armament program was not pulled back.

Corker acknowledged that senators, including Democrats and Trump's fellow Republicans, have raised questions about Trump's authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end worldwide agreements.

"I would be very anxious about a miscalculation based on continuing use of his Twitter account with regard to North Korea", Mr McKeon said.

Nuclear launch authority is not the only area of the president's powers over which Congress has sought more influence since Trump took office. On Nov. 11, he said it was "certainly a possibility" that he could become friends with Kim Jong Un, hours after insulting the North Korean leader on Twitter.

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"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. On Sunday, he again insulted Kim by calling him "short and fat".

Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, reminded the committee that "the system is not a button the president can accidentally lean on, against, on the desk and immediately cause nuclear missiles to fly". "I think they can still realize that Donald Trump can launch nuclear codes just as easily as he can use his Twitter account". "It's not the only tool in the toolkit to try to address something like that", Mattis said. Many in Congress believe there should be a mechanism for the president to get their approval before launching.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) expressed concern Tuesday that President Donald Trump is "so unstable" and "volatile" that he could order a nuclear strike that is "wildly out of step" with USA national security interests.

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Senate committee considers Trump's authority to launch nuclear weapons