Senate panel debates Trump's nuclear authority

Senate panel debates Trump's nuclear authority

Senate panel debates Trump's nuclear authority

"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 weapon strike that is wildly out of step with USA national security interests", Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy said.

That was the message Tuesday from an extraordinary, first-time-in-four-decades hearing convened by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker ― who last month said he anxious that Trump could "start World War III" and called the White House an "adult day care center".

Senator Chris Murphy made a damning assessment of US President Donald Trump on Tuesday as Congress discussed if the country's leader should have the authority to launch a nuclear attack.

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"I don't know", he replied.

He quickly followed that up by saying "I fear that in the age of Trump, the cooler heads and strategic doctrine that we once relied upon as our last best hope against the unthinkable seem less reassuring than ever". Many people, government officials and civilians alike, have been anxious about the possibility of President Trump unilaterally taking the country into a nuclear war.

Another senator on the panel has drafted legislation proposing to curb the president's power to launch a nuclear attack.

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"If we were to change the decision-making process because of a distrust of this president, that would be an unfortunate decision for the next president", said Brian McKeon, who served as acting undersecretary for policy at the Defense Department during the Obama administration.

"It wouldn't be the president alone persuading a single military officer alone on the other side of the telephone", he said.

USA military commanders would refuse to carry out a presidential order to carry out a nuclear first strike that they thought was illegal, senators were told on Tuesday.

"Donald Trump can launch nuclear codes just as easily as he can use his Twitter account, without the check and balance of the United States Congress", Markey warned at the hearing.

On Tuesday, former officials cautioned that adding Congress to the equation would hamper the USA response in a high-stress scenario without a lot of time.

Military experts testifying before the committee noted that, while presidents have ultimate authority to order nuclear strikes, there are safeguards in place to ensure those orders are considered first. Gerald Ford was president.

The quick-reaction system was designed during the Cold War to put the nuclear forces on hair-trigger alert, given that a Soviet Union attack could obliterate the nation's defenses - and leadership - in 30 minutes or less.

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"The United States military does not blindly follow orders", he said.

As commander-in-chief, Trump has the sole authority to order a nuclear strike from land-based missiles, nuclear submarines and bombers.

The experts testifying at the hearing said that while the protocols for nuclear weapons use give the president unilateral control when the United States is under attack from a nuclear strike, the commander in chief is far more restrained when trying to initiate a pre-emptive strike. In this scenario, Mattis, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are not part of the chain of command. Much of the Senate committee hearing was taken up by discussion of what constituted an imminent threat and who could make that determination.

"I'm the president's principal adviser on the use of force", he said.

The time may be ripe for Congress to look at the command and control system now used to determine whether or not to launch a nuclear weapon, Duke political science professor and former National Security Adviser Peter Feaver testified Tuesday.

"One of the things that voters think about" in USA presidential elections, Rubio said, "is whether or not they want to trust him with this capability".

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