Retired Gen Robert Kehler, commander of US Strategic Command (StratCom) from 2011 to 2013, told the Senate committee that he would have refused to have carried out a nuclear first strike on presidential orders, if he believed it did not meet the requirements of proportionality and necessity under the law of armed conflict.
Corker, who has announced he won't seek re-election next year and has become a frequent Trump critic, has said he would use his committee chairmanship to keep the President in check. During the Oct. 30 hearing, he pressed Mattis on whether he could contemplate a scenario in which Trump authorized a nuclear strike on a country that didn't first launch a nuclear attack on the United States.
Murphy asserted that the reason for the hearing was to discuss what would happen if Trump decided to use nuclear weapons. "So let's just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment and the discussion that we're having today".
Going to war is a "heavy responsibility" for elected leaders, and the decision to use nuclear weapons is the "most consequential of all", Sen.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland asked Kehler if that means the top officer at Strategic Command can deny the president's order if it fails those tests.
"We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests", said Sen.
He says, "This is not specific to anybody". Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker will hold a hearing Tuesday on the authority of the President to maintain sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. "It's going to be a very robust period of time". Trump himself has had multiple briefings on the nuclear launch cycle and more conventional, non-nuclear alternatives.
EPAThe Senate is due to look at the powers the US President has for issuing a nuclear strike
BLAIR: I think it's clearly the character and temperament of President Trump that's driving concern about the possible first use of nuclear weapons in a reckless or impetuous way.
Not the Congress. Not his secretary of defense. And I would concede to you that would be a very difficult process and a very difficult conversation.
A central question surrounding the potential of a nuclear launch is whether it would cause undue widespread human suffering when there are other, less dramatic military options.
"As Gen. Kehler has described, the officers in the chain of command, the senior officers and the secretary could raise objections if they believe the order is illegal", McKeon said. "There would be a large group of advisers and legal advisers weighing in on this".
"If there is an illegal order presented to the military, the military is obligated to refuse to follow it. The question is the process leading to that determination and how you arrive at that". The military would treat Trump as they would any other president ordering a nuclear strike.
Republican members on the committee said they worried that adversaries would see and read about the committee hearing and infer that Trump was losing support in his role as commander in chief, making them more likely to attack the United States or its allies. Unlike North Korea, Russia has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the U.S.in minutes.