MSNBC "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" - Transcript: Syria


Date: April 16, 2018


WILLIAMS: We are joined tonight as well by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of the state of California. Importantly, one of the reasons we have him on often is his seat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
Congressman, you just heard the Admiral repeat precision strikes. All the years I`ve been doing it, I`ve never heard anyone in government or at the Pentagon declare that the strikes this evening were imprecise and scattershot. That is the term of art that they use.

Having said that, as they say in politics, there`s always a tweet. I want to read you two from our current president from before he was president, back in 2013.

What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long- term conflict? Obama needs congressional approval.

Tweet number two, the President must get congressional approval before attacking Syria. Big mistake if he does not.

That`s a setup, Congressman. Did anyone come to Congress and either inform or seek approval before what happened tonight?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), MINORITY MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Good evening, Brian. No, Congress was not consulted for approval.

And, first, I just must say this operation, of course, involves people. And so, thankfully, no troops, it sounds like, were hurt. But I would also like to verify whether that`s the case on the ground in that no civilians were hurt.
But we must do all we can to prevent Syria from using chemical weapons and prevent an unhinged president or a hinged president from taking us to war in the Middle East without a plan. We`ve seen what that has done before.

He should have gone to Congress. He should have told us what the amount of time we`re going to commit to Syria would be, what the terrain covered would be. Is this also going to include Iran or Russia for their involvement? And what`s the troop commitment?

And finally, when I hear a one-stop operation or a one-shot operation, that`s what we did last year. And, Brian, it didn`t work. And it didn`t work because we don`t have a strategic objective for Syria.

So we can only expect that without working with Middle East allies and having a way to achieve these objectives, that this is going to happen again, and we`re going to be closer and closer to a protracted war in the Middle East.

WILLIAMS: Well, the question becomes what it so often is in dealings with this president. What recourse do you have?

SWALWELL: Well, we have the power of the purse, of course. And, you know, this Congress, in every way, has given this president, you know, an unchecked Article 1. You know, this president has no stop light, no stop sign, and no cop on the beat on just about everything that he does.

But we have the power to declare war, and the President said that this will be a sustained operation, which, incidentally, is in conflict with what Secretary Mattis said. So that`s why Congress should be involved.

And also, Brian, this president, in just this week, with what we`re learning more and more about from James Comey, his own lawyer is now under federal investigation. He is not, I think, stable to conduct an operation
like this. This is all the more reason that Congress should be involved.

WILLIAMS: That is a foreshadow of the conversation we`re going to have in part over the next hour.
Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of the state of California, thank you so much for being here with us.

SWALWELL: Yes. My pleasure, Brian.