Bruce Ackerman is the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, and the author of numerous books on political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy. His most recent book is the third in his multivolume constitutional history, We the People: The Civil Rights Revolution (2014). (November 2017)
Trump gave his UN speech on North Korea on September 19, which means that the War Powers Act’s sixty-day period for unilateral presidential action ran out on November 18. Under the act’s explicit provisions, the president can engage in no further provocations, such as military incursions into North Korean airspace, without gaining a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force from Congress. If North Korea assaults American bases in Korea, or fires missiles at Guam, Trump is indeed authorized to respond with “fire and fury.” But in the meantime, he must restrain himself—and the statute provides his congressional critics with special procedures to insist that he keep his forces under control.