Past tweets from prominent Democrats including Vice President Kamala Harris and White House press secretary Jen Psaki that were critical of former President Donald Trump’s approval of airstrikes in Syria resurfaced after President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike late Thursday.
Harris, then a California senator, previously tweeted that she was “deeply concerned about the legal rationale” of an April 2018 airstrike approved by Trump that targeted three chemical weapons sites in Syria. Harris also said the former president needed to lay out a Syria strategy “in consultation with Congress.”
The president needs to lay out a comprehensive strategy in Syria in consultation with Congress — and he needs to do it now.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 14, 2018
Psaki previously questioned Trump’s “legal authority” to conduct airstrikes after the former president approved an operation in April 2017 targeting a Syrian air base.
“Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country,” she tweeted.
Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country.
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) April 7, 2017
A number of other prominent Democrats slammed the Trump administration for conducting airstrikes in Syria. Critics argued that such operations were unconstitutional and the former president required congressional authorization for military force.
Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted in April 2018 that airstrikes “were no substitute for a coherent strategy” and Trump needed to “come to Congress” and propose a “comprehensive strategy.”
.@realDonaldTrump must come to Congress to obtain a new AUMF, present a clear set of objectives, & ultimately hold Putin accountable for the bloodshed he has enabled. https://t.co/Mwdwbs289X pic.twitter.com/9f3AB1SJnX
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 14, 2018
Democratic New York Rep. Jerry Nadler criticized the former president in an April 2018 tweet for not “getting the congressional approval required for military action.”
To be clear, Syrian Pres Bashar al-Assad is a monster who has committed war crimes against his own people. But that does not absolve @realDonaldTrump from getting the congressional approval required for military action. https://t.co/jfVdGr08Ie
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) April 14, 2018
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who was on the Democratic presidential ticket in 2016, called Trump’s airstrikes “illegal” in an April 2018 tweet and said Congress should ensure that presidents do not have “a blank check to wage war.”
Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syria without Congress’s approval is illegal. We need to stop giving presidents a blank check to wage war. Today it’s Syria, but what’s going to stop him from bombing Iran or North Korea next?
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) April 14, 2018
In addition to the US attack being unconstitutional, the Pentagon has no real strategy in Syria. Last year’s strike did not deter Assad. Why would this strike?
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 14, 2018
Then-presidential candidate Biden called Trump’s actions in Syria “erratic” and “impulsive” during an Oct. 2019 campaign event and rebuked the former president’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria. (RELATED: At Least 1 Dead And Several Injured In US Airstrike On Iraqi Militia Group)
This afternoon, I’ll be discussing Donald Trump’s recent actions in Syria and how his erratic, impulsive decisions endanger our troops and make us all less safe. Tune in at 5PM ET to watch live: https://t.co/6hXwCuCLsr
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 16, 2019
Presidents have the legal authority to approve military action against an imminent threat under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a legal framework first employed by former President George W. Bush amid the “war on terror.”
Some legal scholars have argued the framework is outdated and allows presidents to unilaterally wage war without the constitutional approval required from Congress. One distinction is that Trump’s airstrikes in 2017 and 2018 targeted Syrian military assets while Biden’s airstrike Thursday night targeted Iran-backed militia groups in northern Syria.
University of Texas constitutional law professor Stephen Vladeck argued in an April 2018 interview with Vox that repeated use of the AUMF has blurred the distinction between targeting a sovereign nation and non-state actors.