Trump Claims He Wanted To Assassinate Syrian President Assad, But Mattis Opposed It – Forbes

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Topline

As part of a lengthy diatribe against former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wanted to order an assassination against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2017, but that Mattis “was against it,” which contradicts previous statements made by Trump. 

Key Facts

“I would’ve rather taken him out,” Trump said of Assad during an interview with Fox and Friends Tuesday morning. “I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general.”

When asked whether he regretted not assassinating the Syrian President, Trump replied: “No, I don’t regret that… I had a shot to take him out if I wanted, and Mattis was against it. Mattis was against most of that stuff.

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward reported in his 2018 book, “Fear,” that Trump pressed Mattis, arguing that the U.S. should “f—king kill” Assad following a chemical attack on Syrian civilians.

On September 5, 2018, Trump refuted Woodward’s reporting, claiming, “I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States. Never even discussed,” Trump said. “No, that was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated.”

Trump went on to argue that Woodward’s recounting of the incident was proof that the book should not have been published.

“It should not have been written about in the book,” Trump said. “It’s just more fiction. The book is total fiction. Okay?”

Critical Quote: 

“I have the pleasure of being privy to those conversations … and I have not once heard the president talk about assassinating Assad,” Nikki Haley, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in 2018

Key Background:

The animosity between Mattis and Trump dates back years. In December of 2018, Defense Secretary Mattis announced that he was stepping down, citing disagreements with Trump regarding Syria and global alliances. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is time for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote to Trump in his resignation letter. The day Mattis resigned, Trump tweeted, “General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations… I greatly thank Jim for his service!” Yet, within weeks, Trump was blasting Mattis publicly. On January 2, 2019, Trump claimed he “essentially” fired his top military aide. What’s he done for me?” Trump asked, suggesting U.S. military policy was “not too good” under Mattis’ command. Last October, Trump called Mattis “the world’s most overrated general.” Mattis stayed silent until June of 2020, when he issued a strong rebuke of the president, stating Trump has sought to divide the country. “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” Mattis said. On Tuesday, Trump went after Mattis once again. “To me, he was a terrible general. He was a bad leader, and he wasn’t doing the job with ISIS,” Trump said. “He was not doing the job in Syria or Iraq with respect to ISIS.” 

Tangent:

According to a recent report from the Atlantic citing four senior staffers, President Trump refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France in 2018 because he regarded the dead World War I veterans as “suckers” and “losers.” “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump reportedly said. While campaigning for president in 2015, Trump called the late John McCain a loser. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said.

Further Reading:

Report: Trump Called U.S. WWI Veterans’ Suckers’ And ‘Losers’ (Forbes) 

Trump, White House attack new book from Bob Woodward (WaPo) 

Trump: Mattis was a highly overrated general, a bad leader (Fox News)

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