Trump Sets Deadly Precedent by Hiding Rationale for Bombing Syria

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against Donald Trump's decision to launch airstrikes against Syria on April 8, 2017, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. / NurPhoto via Getty Images)A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against Donald Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syria on April 8, 2017, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Pressure is mounting as the Trump administration continues to refuse to reveal its legal justification for bombing Syria in April 2017, despite increased scrutiny from Democratic senators and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Minnesota) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on February 8, 2018, requesting a copy of the State Department memo containing the Trump administration’s legal justification for the US attack against Syria on April 6, 2017, when it bombed the Shayrat military airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

At the time of the bombing, Trump suggested that he ordered the launching of the missiles in retaliation for a sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun, allegedly ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian government, however, denied responsibility for the chemical attack. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis admitted earlier this month he has “no evidence” Assad ordered the use of sarin gas against his own people.

In his letter, Kaine expressed concern that the administration persists in refusing to reveal its legal rationale for the bombing. “The fact that there is a lengthy memo with a more detailed legal justification that has not been shared with Congress, or the American public, is unacceptable,” Kaine wrote.

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Yet, in spite of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Protect Democracy on May 22, 2017, Trump refuses to release the memo. The administration claims it is classified. But, as Protect Democracy discovered during the litigation, the classified portion can be easily redacted.

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