The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under Bob Corker, actually held a hearing this morning on the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons.
I don’t have much in the way of video from this hearing except for the following two clips, where two Democrats were very worried about Trump launching nukes haphazardly based on his sometimes combative temperament:
Chris Murphy: "We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile... that he will order a nuclear weapons strike" that isn't warranted. pic.twitter.com/izGDZUAyJ4— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 14, 2017
Asked if military can refuse presidential order to launch nuclear first strike, Ret. Gen. Robert Kehler says, "Yes. If there is an illegal order presented to military, the military is obligated to refuse to follow it.” pic.twitter.com/PIP39BHFd0— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 14, 2017
Here’s more from Politico:
Senators considered Tuesday for the first time in more than 40 years whether the president should continue to have the sole authority to launch a nuclear attack — a question that comes amid increasingly saber-rattling rhetoric between Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
“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 U.S. national security interests,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that yielded few clear answers about checks on the commander in chief’s power. “Let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment.”
Though Republicans were not as vocal about their concern, some did express worry that one person alone can make the decision to launch a nuclear war.
Committee members questioned former military and administration officials about what checks and balances Trump would face if he were to order a so-called first strike nuclear attack, in which the U.S. was not imminently under attack. Some lawmakers suggested that the president should have to come to Congress to get approval for this type of attack.
The president has almost sole authority to launch nuclear weapons under the current process. That system was designed during the Cold War to allow haste, given that a Soviet attack would allow only about 30 minutes before impact.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he worried that Trump was considering using a nuclear weapon against the Hermit Kingdom in an effort to avoid the hundreds of thousands of casualties that a conventional conflict would inflict on Japan and South Korea.
“It boggles the rational mind,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “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.”
But retired Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command, said checks exist on any president who orders a nuclear strike absent an imminent attack on the U.S.
Kehler said that in his former position, he would have questioned and ultimately refused to follow an order from the president to launch a nuclear weapon if it seemed illegal or not a proportional response. He said that would be especially true in the case of a preemptive attack where an attack was not imminent and more time could be spent on the decision.
“I would have said I have a question about this and I would have said I’m not ready to proceed,” Kehler told the panel.
Brian McKeon, a former Pentagon and National Security Council official, said that in situations where the military is waking up the president in the middle of the night to warn of an incoming attack, a prescribed chain of events will unfold where the president has the sole authority to make that decision.
But in a situation where the president is waking up the military, a situation of “I’m mad and I want to do something about it,” it would require more than just the commander in chief to launch a nuclear weapon.
“The president alone could not effect the strike. He would require lots of people cooperating with him to make the strike happen,” McKeon said. “They’d be asking questions that would slow down that process.”
It strikes me as form of political payback that Corker would hold a hearing on such a topic as Trump’s ability to order nuclear attacks, knowing full well that Democrats were going to essentially use this to attack Trump.
Now I know Trump has said things on Twitter that bother me, especially with regard to ‘media licenses’ and his attacks on Sessions earlier this year. However I’ve never heard anything from Trump of the magnitude that would ever make me worry about him trying to launch an inappropriate nuclear attack on anybody. Even on his rhetoric against N. Korean provocations, I’ve always found his threats to be appropriate. Sometimes he repeats them a little more than I like, but I’ve seen nothing that would give me cause for concern.
In fact as far as it goes Trump has always stayed within the bounds of his legal authority and that of the other branches, even when challenged by the courts. It was Obama who disregarded court rulings and got smacked down by courts because of it. Trump has done no such thing.
This hearing was nothing more than a political attack on Trump for the way he went after Corker earlier this year in my opinion.