Skip to content

3 of Idaho’s 4 congressmen side with Trump on Syria

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch — a member of both that chamber’s foreign relations and intelligence committees — applauded President Donald Trump’s order to launch an attack against Syria in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attack on his own country Tuesday.

In interviews Thursday night with the Spokesman-Review and Friday morning with CNN, Risch said the strike will force countries like North Korea to “recalibrate” how they interact with the U.S.

“No question about it, not only did he make the right move, I think the timing was exquisite,” Risch told the Spokesman Review. “Generally thinking, you want to do these things carefully. You want to do them thoughtfully. But this was not the beginning of a war. This was a kinetic strike that was a one-shot strike right now. But the message was absolutely clear — you’re not going to be able to continue doing what you’re doing, or you’re going to get more of this.”

Images of dead and suffering children following the chemical attack apparently changed Trump’s mind about intervening more directly. On CNN, Risch was asked whether those images also changed his own mind about accepting Syrian refugees into this country. He did not directly answer the question, but said in general the U.S. would always continue to take in refugees.

Mike Crapo, Idaho’s other U.S. senator, also praised Trump.

“The brutality of the Syrian regime seems to know no bounds,” Crapo said in a statement. “I support the president’s decisive actions to prevent further use of chemical weapons against innocent women, men, and children and from allowing those from falling into the hands of terrorists. I send my gratitude to the men and women of America’s armed forces fighting our enemies abroad. Let us also keep in our minds the memory of the victims of al-Assad’s attacks as the United States and our allies fight the spread of terrorism.”

And U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson also backed the president in a brief statement Thursday night.

“I support the president’s action against the Assad regime,” Simpson said in a news release shortly after the U.S. Navy fired some 60 missiles at a military airfield in Syria. “The United States of America took a strong stand tonight against the unfathomable act Bashar al-Assad conducted this week by murdering innocent men, women and children with a chemical attack.”

But Friday morning, Rep. Raul Labrador, who represents a district that stretches from Boise to the Canadian border, said Trump should have engaged Congress in his decision before attacking Syria.

“Like all Americans, I was appalled by the use of chemical weapons in Syria and heartbroken that so many innocent people fell victim in such a heinous way. The Syrian government’s abuse of human rights is unacceptable and deserves a strong, thoughtful response from the United States and all civilized nations.,” Labrador said in a news release. “However, our response must be in the best interests of the American people and approved by Congress through the deliberative process outlined in our Constitution.”

Trump’s decision came after the Assad’s attack killed dozens of civilians, including children, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. strikes hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off.

Announcing the assault from his Florida resort, Trump said there was no doubt Syria and Assad was responsible for the chemical attack, which he said employed banned gases and killed dozens.

“Assad choked out the lives of innocent men, women and children,” Trump declared.

U.S. presidents have taken sporadic military action without Congress’ approval for decades now, and the current law has become muddled by an ongoing authorization allowing the president to take military actions against terrorism. Various experts started debating the legality of Trump’s strike after news broke Thursday evening.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, sided with Labrador.

“While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked,” Paul said in a statement on his website. “The president needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.”

Diplomats at the U.N. Security council sparred Wednesday over whether to hold President Bashar Assad’s government responsible for the chemical weapons attack, according to the Associated Press.

Thursday’s attack marks the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president. Yet to be seen are any repercussions from Syria or Russia. The latter’s military is active in Syria, helping Assad against various rebel groups, and pledged to help shore up Syria’s air defenses after the U.S. strike.

Until recently, the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th fighter wing was stationed in Turkey, operating throughout the region, possibly including Syria. All of the 124th is back home now, Guard spokesman Maj. Chris Borders said.