November 01, 2017 12:04
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday claimed President Donald Trump can act as commander-in-chief in case of an imminent threat from North Korea without approval from Congress.
Asked what authority the U.S. president has over military options against the North, Mattis told a Senate hearing, "I believe under Article II, he has a responsibility, obviously, to protect the country and if there was not time, I could imagine him not consulting or consulting as he's doing something along the lines, for example, of what we did at Shayrat air field in Syria, when we struck that and the Congress was notified immediately."
"But in this case of North Korea, it would be a direct imminent or actual attack on the United States I think Article II would apply," he added.
Under the Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war. But Article II stipulates that the president must protect and defend the Constitution and can order an attack on a foreign country without congressional authorization if it attacks the U.S. or its allies or if such an attack is imminent.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during the same hearing, "I think it would have to be fact-based and given consideration as to the circumstances around an imminent threat."
Tillerson sidestepped a question whether the North's possession of nuclear weapons is an imminent threat. "I'm always reluctant to get into too many hypotheticals because the possession could be sitting in an underground, not-ready-to-be-used condition or the possession could be sitting upright on a TEL (transporter erector launcher), about to be launched," he said.
Asked if the U.S. can attack the North preemptively with a nuclear weapon, Mattis said that too is a hypothetical question but added that the president has a duty to defend the country.
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