Congressman Ted Lieu wants to make it harder for presidents to use nuclear weapons

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Photo via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA)

Do you really want Trump's tiny fingers on the big, red button?

Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) is more than a little worried about the prospect of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump inhabiting the Oval Office.

Where Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said in her speech at the Democratic National Convention that “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” Lieu wants to go one step further and reform the process by which the president would be allowed to use America's nuclear arsenal against an enemy target.

“The erratic and impulsive behavior of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has highlighted the structural dangers of America’s nuclear weapons launch protocols,” Lieu said in a statement released on Thursday. “Having taught the Law of War when I served on active duty, and as a graduate of Air War College, it is clear to me that the traditional checks and balances on the executive branch do not apply when it comes to nuclear weapons. This process needs to be fixed.”

Lieu notes that, at present, the only check on the president's use of nuclear weapons is the approval of the Secretary of Defense. Under the legislation Lieu plans on introducing when Congress comes back into session later this year, another layer of congressional approval would also be added.

“When Congress comes back into session, I plan to introduce legislation that requires the concurrence of leaders in Congress—who are not beholden to the president—before a nuclear strike can be launched,” he continued. “We can no longer have the fate of civilization depend on just two people in the executive branch.”

Staffers at Lieu's office did not immediately return a request for comment about precisely what a “concurrence of leaders in Congress” would entail.

Recent days have seen an increasing concern about whether the famously irritable real estate mogul is capable of being trusted with the ability to kill millions of people almost unilaterally. Former Republican congressman and cable news host Joe Scarborough recounted on his MSNBC show earlier this week a story about Trump repeatedly asking one of his foreign policy advisers, “If we have ... [nuclear weapons], why can't we use them?”

John Noonan, the former national security adviser to Jeb Bush, explained in a tweetstorm why Trump's apparent attitude toward the use of nuclear weapons makes him nervous.

Representatives from the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
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