House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is attempting to prevent President Trump from doing anything else before he leaves office on January 20, including stripping him of his authority to access and use the United States’ arsenal of nuclear weapons.
As Axios report, Pelosi is looking to coral those around the president, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley, to support her effort in stopping the president.
It should be noted that Trump has not indicated any interest in using nuclear weapons.
Despite this, Pelosi is not taking any chances and is pursuing “available precautions” to stop Trump.
But, according to the report, there are no precautions available for Pelosi to pursue.
As Slate’s Fred Kaplan — the author of a recent book on nuclear weapons control — wrote on Friday, “the nuclear command-control system was designed to allow the president, and only the president, to launch nuclear weapons as quickly as possible.”
Be smart: For all the destructive power of nuclear weapons, a different factor dictates America’s command and control structure: their speed.
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- Absolute presidential control of the nuclear arsenal was solidified in part out of the realization that the speed of nuclear war would not allow for lengthy debates.
- If a U.S. president were alerted that ICBMs were inbound from Russia, there might be as few as 10 minutes to decide whether to retaliate before the missiles reached their destination.
- That time pressure doesn’t exist in the case of an American first use of nuclear weapons. But as an unprecedented Senate hearing in 2017 made clear, while protocol calls for the president to consult with several officers and officials before launching nuclear weapons, “the president has no obligation to take the officers’ advice,” Kaplan wrote.
Congress has previously sought to handcuff the president’s ability to use nuclear weapons, including a proposal that would have required congressional approval for a first strike. The effort was ultimately dropped before it faced a vote.
In his last months in office, former President Obama similarly considered limiting the president’s authority to launch a first strike without prior provocation. He ultimately dropped the issue.