President Trump’s national security adviser suggested U.S. troops are raring to get involved in the escalating chaos in Venezuela but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said Wednesday they haven’t signed off on any such commitment.
“We would like to remind the Trump administration that Congress has never authorized military intervention in Venezuela — nor do we plan to,” the chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said in a statement. “President Trump should heed the constitution and refrain from promoting regime change in another sovereign country.”
Venezuela, on edge for months, took another step toward chaos this week when Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. recognizes as president, called for the country’s leaders to break with Nicolas Maduro, who was elected to a second term as president last year.
U.S. officials seemed intent on giving Mr. Maduro a push, with National Security Adviser John R. Bolton telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that U.S. troops are “on the balls of our feet ready to go” into the Latin American country.
Trump administration officials said Mr. Maduro had been poised to go until he got some back-stiffening from Russia and Cuba.
Mr. Bolton said there are “a lot of options underway” but didn’t indicate any specific military path.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a vocal opponent of the administration’s policy regarding Venezuela, said it was a “strategic mistake” for the administration to try and “anoint” Mr. Guaido.
“What we need is negotiated settlement with the Pope, Mexico and Uruguay and not for America to get mired in another civil war,” the California Democrat told The Washington Times.
Republicans, meanwhile, said they were wary of the U.S. getting too far ahead of itself.
“Obviously any long term intervention is going to need the support of Congress. A short term intervention is certainly within the executive branch’s discretion. It’s not something I would normally applaud whether it’s this administration or a previous administration,” Rep. Mark Meadows, a staunch defender of Mr. Trump, told The Washington Times.
Rep. Matt Gaetz said it was fine to keep military options on the table, feared following through could worsen the situation.
“Leaping to military intervention in an absence of a thorough understanding of the consequences would be a mistake in my view,” he said. “You look at Columbia, Peru — their special operators are no joke. They can get the job done and there are a lot of ways that we can support the effort for freedom in Venezuela in the absence of direct U.S. military intervention.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican, said they spoke with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and doubt U.S. troops are poised to be used.
But both said Mr. Maduro does need to go.
“I don’t believe that Maduro will remain as leader if his people remain suffering the way they’re suffering with lack of food, lack of everything. I think its only a matter of time for him,” Mr. Engel said.
“As long as Maduro is there the crisis will continue,” Mr. McCaul told The Washington Times.
The Texas Republican said he’s also concerned with how the Russians and Cubans are interfering in the crisis, and urged neighboring countries to be involved in settling the conflict.
“They have to be part of an effort to leverage Maduro out of the country,” he said.
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