Sen. Murphy: Trump So 'Unstable' He May Order Nuclear Strike

US President Donald Trump in Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump's power to launch nuclear weapons is under scrutiny by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress concerned over his comments about striking North Korea.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said the examination was about the structure that allows presidents to make critical decisions.

Corker himself warned last month that Trump might be putting the United States "on the path to World War Three". He said those comments are fueled by Trump's statements about North Korea, including his remark in August that the USA could respond to Pyongyang with "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of CT seemed to agree during the hearing when he addressed the panel.

"We are concerned that the president is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear-weapons strike that is wildly out of step with USA national-security interests", Murphy said.

In such a situation, said Bryan McKeon, a former undersecretary of defense under Barack Obama, the president could replace the commander in question, or even the secretary of defense.

"This is a system controlled by human beings ... nothing happens automatically", he said, adding that the USA military does not blindly follow orders and a presidential order to employ nuclear weapons must be legal.

Under certain circumstances, he explained: "I would have said, 'I'm not ready to proceed'".

Mr Kehler admitted: "I don't know".

What else can we expect from the hearing?

The actual launch of a nuclear missile is a classified process.

When asked before the hearing if he was concerned about Trump's authority, Corker said, "This is not specific to anyone".

"Every single word that has been uttered this morning at this hearing is going to be analyzed in Pyongyang", said Republican Senator Jim Risch, who is in line to become chairman after Corker retires next year.

Another senator on the panel has drafted legislation proposing to curb the president's power to launch a nuclear attack. The measures, though, have not advanced in the Republican-controlled Congress. Indeed, a military aide shadows the commander in chief day and night, carrying the black briefcase commonly referred to as the "nuclear football", packed with attack options and other information needed in a national emergency.

His top advisers, such as Defence Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or national security adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster play no role in the chain of command.

Stevens Institute of Technology's Alex Wellerstein, who has researched extensively about presidential nuclear authority, said he hopes the hearing "might shed some light on aspects of the procedures for presidential use of nuclear weapons that I think really needs to be known and talked about".

This is because an enemy ballistic missile launched from the other side of the world could hit the U.S. in barely 30 minutes. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.

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