As President Donald Trump continued to threaten North Korea on Thursday, dozens of members of Congress urged those close to the president to advise caution and restraint. More than 60 members of Congress condemned Trump's promise to meet North Korea's threats with "fire and fury" as "irresponsible and dangerous" in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In the letter, the group of lawmakers pleaded with Tillerson to do everything in his power to ensure that Trump understood the importance of "speaking and acting with the utmost caution and restraint."
"We write to express our profound concern over the statements made by President Trump that dramatically increased tensions with North Korea and raised the specter of nuclear war," the letter to Tillerson (and cc'd to President Trump) states. "Congress and the American public will hold President Trump responsible if a careless of ill-advised miscalculation results in conflict that endangers our servicemembers and regional allies."
Moreover, the legislators argue Trump's rhetoric does very little to help the situation. "These statements are irresponsible and dangerous," the lawmakers write, adding Trump's threats "also senselessly provide a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda which has long sought to portray the United States as a threat to their people."
According to political blog the Hill, Democratic Rep. John Conyers led House Democrats in organizing the letter to Tillerson after President Trump promised Tuesday to rain "fire and fury" upon North Korea if Pyongyang and Kim Jong-un continued to threaten the United States. In a statement released in conjunction with the letter, Conyers, a veteran of the Korean War, said he was "ashamed that our commander-in-chief is conducting himself in a reckless manner that endangers our troops stationed in Korea and our regional allies."
But just as House Democrats were urging restraint on Thursday, President Trump was telling reporters that, although it had raised eyebrows, his initial warning may not have been "tough enough." He warned "things will happen to [North Korea] like they never thought possible" should the country follow through on its threats to attack.
Yet while House Democrats may be hoping Tillerson will steer President Trump toward a more cautious and restrained rhetoric, it remains unclear if the secretary of state will be able, or even willing, to do so. Previously, Tillerson defended the president's threatening rhetoric toward North Korea, calling it "a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un can understand" in an interview Wednesday with two pool reporters. Tillerson argued North Korea's leader "doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language."
In their letter, House Democrats urged Tillerson to convince the Trump administration to stay on a diplomatic path and declare its public support for the constitutional requirement that states Congress must debate and authorize any preemptive attack.