After Trump, end unilateral nuclear launch power for all presidents


Elizabeth Warren and William J. Perry

Two weeks after he incited an insurrection against the Congress and the Constitution he swore an oath to defend, former President Donald Trump retained full authority to use the most deadly weapons ever created. As disturbing as it may be, this authority is a central feature of our nation’s nuclear decision-making structure — and it is long past time for reform. There is no question that we must place firm limits on presidential nuclear powers, first by enacting a formal policy not to use nuclear weapons first and then by making any decision to use nuclear weapons subject to the approval of Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plea to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Jan. 8 to somehow find “available precautions” to prevent Trump from using his sole authority (the president does not need approval or concurrence from anyone else prior to ordering a nuclear launch, and the military is required to follow that order) to launch was remarkable and shocking, but it was not a first. Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger reportedly took steps in the last days of Richard Nixon’s presidency to prevent him from abusing his nuclear authority when Nixon was drinking heavily and facing impeachment. 

www.usatoday.com2021-01-25 09:01:41

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