House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters in San Francisco on Sunday that President Donald Trump had behaved as if he were “above the law” in ordering precision strikes on Friday targeting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons infrastructure.
Trump ordered the strikes after a reported chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime against civilians in the town of Douma on April 7. U.S. intelligence confirmed the attack, officials said.
Pelosi has long been one of the foremost opponents of military action against the Assad regime. In 2007, shortly after becoming Speaker of the House, she traveled to Syria to meet with Assad personally. The trip took place at a time when the George W. Bush administration was frustrated about Syria’s efforts to help terrorists enter Iraq.
Pelosi and several of her fellow Democrats traveled to Syria in a protest against any potential military action against Assad, and to highlight diplomacy as an alternative. Other prominent Democrats who traveled to meet with Assad included former President Jimmy Carter and former Democratic presidential nominee — and later Secretary of State — Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
As Secretary of State, Kerry would broker an agreement with Russia that supposedly guaranteed the removal and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. That agreement, seen at the time as an alternative to military action, was quickly violated by the Syrian regime.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Pelosi said that Trump was abusing a 2001 congressional authorization of the use of military force against terrorists to target Syria. She said that Trump could not act against Syria without specific approval from Congress.
“We must have that debate, Congress must act, and the president cannot feel that he has free rein in that regard. … What was the mission, and what did he accomplish? The point is, we want to know what happened there.”
Pelosi also reportedly mocked Trump’s intelligence: “He doesn’t know. It’s not unusual for him to talk about things he doesn’t even know about — and this is the commander in chief.”
The day before, anti-war activists from the far-left group Code Pink had targeted Pelosi’s house in a protest against the Syria strike. Pelosi’s criticism of the president Sunday was significantly tougher than her criticism on Friday, when she criticized Trump for what she called the lack of a “coherent strategy.”
Pelosi is currently favored to become the next Speaker of the House, according to polls that show the Democrats winning the lower chamber in the 2018 midterm elections.