Amid complaints that his aides are saying different things about Syria and his policy is confusing, President Trump emphatically cleared the air.
“We’re not going into Syria,” he told me yesterday in an exclusive interview. “Our policy is the same — it hasn’t changed. We’re not going into Syria.”
The president, speaking by phone Tuesday, called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “butcher” and a “barbarian” for using sarin gas on his own people, but said last week’s successful missile strike was not the start of a campaign to oust the dictator.
“Our big mission is getting rid of ISIS,” Trump said. “That’s where it’s always been. But when you see kids choking to death, you watch their lungs burning out, we had to hit him and hit him hard.”
He called the attack, which involved 59 cruise missiles fired from two Navy destroyers, “an act of humanity.”
“It’s very tough to give that final go-ahead when you know you’re talking about human life,” he said. “We went back and forth, and also back and forth about severity. We could have gone bigger in terms of targets and more of them, but we thought this would be the appropriate first shot.”
Later, he added, “We hope he won’t do any more gassing.”
The interview was scheduled to last 15 minutes, but ran nearly twice as long. Throughout, the president was gracious, energized and focused. He answered every question, and invited me to ask more as aides tried to get him to his next appointment. So I did.
How seriously does he take the threats from Russia, and does he think there is still a possibility for cooperation in the region with Vladimir Putin?
“We’re not exactly on the same wavelength with Russia, to put it mildly,” Trump answered. “Putin must see what a barbarian this guy is, and it’s a very bad symbol for Russia with this guy gassing children and using barrel bombs.”
With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow as we spoke, Trump said he hoped for Putin’s cooperation, but added, “I don’t know.” full story