President Donald Trump revealed Tuesday that he wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad earlier in his presidency, reversing his previous denial that the issue ever came up.
“I would have rather taken him out. I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it,” Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends, referring to then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “Mattis was against most of that stuff.”
Trump’s comments are similar to a report in journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book “Fear,” which said Trump ordered the Pentagon to assassinate the Syrian president after a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017.https://s0.2mdn.net/ads/richmedia/studio/pv2/61552521/20200908014047645/index.html?e=69&leftOffset=300&topOffset=0&c=57NK2ik0lF&t=1&renderingType=2
“Let’s [expletive] kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the [expletive] lot of them,” Trump is said to have told Mattis.
According to the book, Mattis acknowledged Trump’s request but later turned to an aide and said he would not do “any of that.”
Following the book’s publication, Trump denied the account, dismissing the book as “fiction” and telling journalists that assassinating Assad “was never contemplated, nor would it be contemplated.”
In the Tuesday interview, Trump personally attacked Mattis as “highly overrated” and “a bad leader,” saying “he was terrible to me, he was a terrible general.”
Trump also accused the retired Marine general of failing to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Iraq declared the ISIS caliphate defeated in 2017; the Pentagon said Kurdish troops supported by U.S. forces had routed the militant group in Syria in March 2019, several months after Mattis resigned.