According to Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of Strategic Command, an order from President Donald Trump or any of his successors to launch nuclear weapons can be refused if that order is determined to be illegal.
Speaking on a panel at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, Hyten revealed that he and Trump have had conversations about such a scenario.
“If it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’” Hyten explained, adding, “And we’ll come up with options with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works.”
Hyten further explained that should Trump decide to launch a nuclear attack, he would then be provided with legally-approved strike options.
Hyten’s comments come as the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea remains a serious concern. Trump’s critics worry that he may be inciting a war with North Korea with the language he uses against the rogue regime’s rabid leader.
During testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who served as the head of Strategic Command from January 2011 to November 2013, also said the U.S. armed forces are obligated to follow legal orders, not illegal ones.
Hyten made it clear that he takes offense at the notion of an “unstable” President with his finger on the nuclear trigger.
“I think some people think we’re stupid. We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility how do you not think about it?” Hyten stated, noting that he would never obey an illegal order. “You could go to jail for the rest of your life,” he pointed out.
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