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With six hours to spare before the 48-hour deadline in section 4 of the War Powers Resolution, the White House has sent the President's report to Congress on Thursday evening's missile attacks on Syria.
The text is here:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2017
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
April 8, 2017
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
At approximately 8:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on April 6, 2017, at my direction, United States military forces in the Mediterranean Sea, operating beyond the territorial sea of any state, struck the Shayrat military airfield in Syria. United States intelligence indicates that Syrian military forces operating from this airfield were responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians in southern Idlib Province, Syria, that occurred on April 4. I directed this action in order to degrade the Syrian military's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons, thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region's current humanitarian catastrophe.
I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
DONALD J. TRUMP
As expected, the President cites his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive as the domestic legal basis for his actions.
The reasons the President cites for the use of force -- "to degrade the Syrian military's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks" and "to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons,thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region's current humanitarian catastrophe" -- are indeed compelling national security and foreign policy interests. Although it is always useful for a President to have a specific congressional authorization for the use of force, President Trump acted within his constitutional powers for the reasons stated. If the President does order additional attacks as his report contemplates, it would be prudent for him now to seek congressional authorization so that he has the support of Congress.
Having clarified the domestic law basis for the attacks, the President and his advisers should now do more to clarify the international law basis or justification.