President Donald Trump said the only reason the United States did not assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2018 was due to former Defense Secretary James Mattis.
During a “Fox & Friends” interview, Trump did not mince any words as he blamed Mattis for failing to pull the trigger on a plan that the president claims he helped set up.
“I would have rather taken him out,” Trump said, explaining that the attack was planned in retaliation against al-Assad after he was presumed responsible for the 2018 Syrian gas attacks. “I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general, and I let him go.”
“Mattis was a highly overrated general” who “didn’t do his job,” Trump says of the retired Marine Corps general and his former defense secretary. “I’m not saying he’s a good American or a bad American. I just say he didn’t do a good job.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 15, 2020
As the Daily Caller reports, Trump went on to describe Mattis as a “bad leader” who “wasn’t doing the job with ISIS” and “had no concept” of how to defeat the international terror group.
Trump ultimately shrugged the decision not to assassinate al-Assad, saying he “could have lived either way with that,” the Daily Caller reports.
“I considered him certainly not a good person, but I had a shot to take him out if I wanted,” he added. “Mattis was against it. Mattis was against most of that stuff.”
While this is the first time Trump has publically confirmed his intention to assassinate the Syrian leader, the Guardian reported in 2018 that Bob Woodward included the assassination plot in his book.
From the 2018 report:
Donald Trump wanted to have the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, assassinated last year but his defense secretary ignored the request, according to the book, which depicts top Trump aides sometimes sidestepping instructions to limit what they see as his damaging and dangerous behavior.
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According to the book, Trump told the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, that he wanted to have Assad assassinated after the Syrian president launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.
Mattis told Trump he would “get right on it” but instead developed a plan for a limited air strike that did not threaten Assad personally.