House Passes Schiff Amendment Requiring Legal Basis for Syria Strikes To Be Turned Over to Congress

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that the House has passed his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the Department of Defense to submit a report to Congress detailing the legal basis for the strikes carried out by the United States against Syrian regime targets in 2017 and 2018. 

“By articulating a legal basis for military action, as well as laying out a strategic vision for such action, a president provides a justification for the momentous decision to use force or commit American lives to a cause, but also an understanding of the limits of those powers,” Rep. Schiff said. “The legal rationale for the President’s strikes in Syria must not be kept secret from the public. It must be provided to Congress and the American people.”

In April 2017 and April 2018, President Trump ordered U.S. forces to carry out targeted strikes on Syrian regime targets without seeking approval from Congress. There was no legal basis for those strikes under any existing Authorization of Military Force (AUMF). Shortly after the 2017 and 2018 strikes, Rep. Schiff and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent letters to the President requesting that the legal basis be provided to Congress. To date, President Trump has not replied to their letters, nor has the Administration provided a full legal justification for strikes under domestic and international law to the Congress or the American people.

Full text of the amendment is below:


Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate a report providing a detailed explanation of the legal basis under both domestic and international law for the strikes conducted by the United States against Syrian regime targets on April 6, 2017, and April 13, 2018, including a detailed legal analysis of relevant authorities and precedents. Such report shall be unclassified, but may include a classified annex.