House Speaker Paul Ryan downplayed the need for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force for a military strike on Syria, repeating his longstanding position that he thinks President Donald Trump “has the authority under the existing AUMF” from 2001.
“Well, he has the authority under the existing AUMF,” Ryan said Thursday, adding later, “With respect to the authorities, the existing AUMF … gives him the authority to do what he needs to do, what he may or may not do.”
Ryan also expressed hesitation about moving on a new authorization, warning against circumscribing the military’s ability to act quickly against new threats.
“What I would hate to do, in this time when we have asymmetrical threats all across the world, particularly with ISIS, is to have an AUMF that short – that ties the hands of our military behind their backs. So the last thing I want to see is an AUMF that makes it much more difficult for our military to respond to keep us safe. Because they have the authority to do that now,” Ryan said.
Regarding potential action in Syria specifically, Ryan also said he thought it was “important for us to help lead the international community to make sure that people are held accountable for these mass atrocities.”
“As to Syria itself, Bashar Assad and his enablers in Tehran and Moscow have committed another mass atrocity on people in Syria,” Ryan said. “I think the US has an obligation to lead an international response to hold him accountable for that. I won’t get ahead of the President, he is taking a very deliberate and careful response and approach to this.”
Ryan received criticism from Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, who slammed Ryan’s comments, writing on Twitter: “Constitution: Ryan is wrong again”
And Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News this morning said that on the need there should be a new AUMF for Syria, there should be a debate in Congress.
“We’re going to ask to a great degree you have to have a debate in Congress,” he said. “That’s what the Constitution clearly spells out. Let’s have the debate. We have been functioning under one in Afghanistan for 17 years. I also understand what (Bashar al-Assad) did. This is as evil and as wrong as it gets and deserves some kind of response.”
Trump on Thursday softened his rhetoric about potential airstrikes on Syria, a day after warning Russia that missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart.’”
In an early morning tweet and later in comments at the White House, Trump attempted to cloud the timing of military action – a day after indicating it was imminent – and said a final decision had not yet been made.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and DJ Judd contributed to this report.