Senators deadlock in debate over whether to restrain Trump's nuclear launch authority

Protesters are hit by a water cannon as they try to march towards the US embassy during a rally against US President

With an increasingly bellicose nuclear North Korea and Twitter rhetoric from President Donald Trump, Congress has once again opened the question on the legitimate use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict. He threatened Kim in August with "fire and fury like the world has never seen", a likely reference to nuclear war. "A presidential order to employ USA nuclear weapons must be legal". In other words, there is time to debate strike options.

The experts attempted to reassure senators there are processes in place to ensure many seasoned military and legal experts review nuclear orders before they are acted upon. The order from the president would unleash the world's most powerful nuclear arsenal either through a fleet of strategic bombers or missile-launching submarines or land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Much of the nuclear chain of command is already "devoted to safety and security measures created to minimize these risks" Feaver said. "But I believe that congressional oversight does not equate to operational control". An American preemptive nuclear attack on Pyongyang would nearly certainly result in the deaths of millions due to a strike and North Korean counterattack against regional allies Japan and South Korea.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee there were fears the president was so unstable and volatile he might order a nuclear-weapons strike.

"Making the decision to go to war of any sort is a heavy responsibility for our nation's elected leaders", Corker said.

"If we are under attack, the president would have the authority under Article 2 to defend the country and there's no distinction between his authority to use conventional or nuclear weapons in response to such an attack", McKeon told lawmakers.

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No Trump administration officials are testifying before the hearing, which is examining the nuclear command and control structure that has served all United States presidents.

"In the past" Feaver said, "Congress has played a vital role in pushing the Executive Branch to strengthen the nuclear command and control system, and the time may be ripe for another close look".

"We are concerned the president of the united states is so unstable, is so volatile ... that he might order a nuclear weapon strike that is wildly out of step with USA national security interests", said Sen. "So let's just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment, of this discussion we're having today". "There are no checks on the president's authority". Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., to write Iran-related legislation that could pass with bipartisan support.

Retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who previously headed the U.S.'s command that would be in charge of the nuclear arsenal during a war, said while the USA military is obligated to follow legal orders, it is not duty bound to adhere to illegal ones.

That explanation did not satisfy committee Democrats, who insisted Trump's behavior, and what they identify as his habit of nominating and hiring administration officials who defer to his worldview, means any internal resistance "does not offer real resistance if the president absolutely insists upon his way", Sen.

"He would require lots of people cooperating with him to make the strike happen", McKeon said.

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