In the News

Trump and the Nuclear Button (The New York Times)

The New York Times, November 24, 2017

Trump and the Nuclear Button (Letter to the Editor)

By John S. Kiernan, President, New York City Bar Association, and Mark R. Shulman, Chair, Task Force on National Security and the Rule of Law

“Re ‘Rethinking the President’s Nuclear Trigger‘ (editorial, Nov. 16): We applaud the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s decision to hold hearings on the president’s authority to launch nuclear weapons. As you note, President Trump’s ‘glib talk about nuclear weapons and his impulsiveness’ constitute reason to scrutinize this power. Virtually any first use of nuclear weapons would constitute an act of war. International law prohibits their use except to address a threat that is ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.’ Our Constitution imposes a further constraint. Absent an actual or imminent attack, the president must seek prior congressional authorization to initiate war. Congress has not authorized use of force against North Korea. Nor does the president’s status as commander in chief carry a right to declare or commence war. If that were so, the power of Congress to declare war and the constitutional check on unilateral action would be meaningless. In light of the threat that nuclear weapons pose, further constraints may be appropriate. But existing laws already limit the president’s power to use them.”

Read more.