Foreign policy hawk John Bolton advocates for "unconstitutional” War Powers Act to be repealed

Repeal law limiting president’s ability to wage military action without the authorization of Congress, Bolton says

By Igor Derysh
January 9, 2020 5:53PM (UTC)
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U.S. President Donald Trump, left, is flanked by national security adviser John Bolton, right during a press conference after a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, July 12, 2018 (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton called for a repeal of a decades-old law, which limits a president’s ability to wage military action without the authorization of Congress.

Bolton, a longtime opponent of limits on presidential war powers, claimed that the “1973 War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional” on Thursday.


“It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Constitution allocated foreign affairs authority between the President and Congress,” he tweeted. “The Resolution should be repealed.”

The War Powers Act requires the president to notify Congress after deploying troops and restricts how long armed forces can be engaged without the approval of lawmakers. The law was enacted in spite of a veto from then-President Richard Nixon in an effort to prevent another extended conflict like the Vietnam War.

Bolton is a longtime opponent of the law and has spent much of his career fighting congressional limits on presidential authority, according to Politico.


Bolton’s tweet came as congressional lawmakers debate limiting President Donald Trump’s ability to wage military action against Iran. Bolton, who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, pushed for the administration to “aggressively confront Iran,” according to USA Today. He also praised Trump’s order to kill Iranian military official Qassem Soleimani last week as a potential step toward toppling the country’s regime.

“Congratulations to all involved in eliminating Qassem Soleimani. Long in the making, this was a decisive blow against Iran’s malign Quds Force activities worldwide,”Bolton tweeted last week. “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that the House of Representatives would vote Thursday on a resolution to limit Trump’s ability to engage in extended armed conflict with Iran. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced a similar resolution in the Senate.


The resolution “reasserts Congress’ long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further congressional action is taken, the administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days,” Pelosi said earlier this week.

The vote comes after top Trump administration officials briefed Congress on Soleimani’s killing Wednesday. The administration argued to the U.N.  that the drone strike were an act of self-defense, but many senators came away from the briefing dubious about that justification.


Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told MSNBC that the briefing showed "there was no imminent threat to cause this assassination to happen right when it did.”

“It struck me as the same kind of lies I was hearing 20 years ago, when I was a House member, about the war in Iraq,” he said.

Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, D-Wash., agreed that “if there is evidence there, we have not seen it.”


“[President Trump] had no evidence of an imminent attack, and we say that coming from a classified briefing, where again, there was no raw evidence presented that there was an imminent threat,” she said at a news conference Wednesday. “All of this has made us less safe . . . This just seems to be the reckless action of a president who thinks he can act without Congressional authorization.”

Democrats were not the only ones skeptical of the administration’s justification. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told reporters that the administration claimed that the drone strike that killed Soleimani was approved under the 2002 authorization of military force that allowed the Bush administration to invade Iraq. Paul called the justification “absurd” and an “insult.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, went further, calling it the “probably the worst briefing I've seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate."


"What I'm concerned about is the flippant attitude that they reflected, both with regard to the underlying facts on Friday's attack and especially as they relate moving forward to any subsequent attack that we might undertake on Iran," Lee told Fox News. "There was a dismissive attitude, one that was displayed in such a way that resulted in them saying: 'We can't identify what circumstances in which we would need to come back to Congress to get approval or authorization.' That is antithetical to the Constitution."

Paul and Lee both said they would vote with Democrats on the war powers resolution, prompting Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Ky., to accuse them of “empowering the enemy.”

“I think it’s sad when people have this fake sort of drape of patriotism and anybody that disagrees with them is not a patriot,” Paul responded during an interview with CNN. “For him, to insult and say we’re not as patriotic as he is — he hasn’t read the Constitution . . . He insults the Constitution, our Founding Fathers and what we do stand for in this republic by making light of it and accusing people of lacking patriotism. I think that’s a low, gutter type of response.”

Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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