As President Trump prepared to launch airstrikes against Syria last week, he was urged by Defense Secretary James Mattis to get congressional approval first, but the president overruled him, wanting to expeditiously back up his tweets promising action, military and administration officials told The New York Times Tuesday.
Mattis was also concerned that if Trump were too aggressive it would provoke Russia, the Times reports, so they compromised with strikes against three targets, avoiding Russian installations. Officials told the Times that Mattis used to have former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster act as a buffer in the White House, but John Bolton is now in the role, and he is not expected to defer to the defense secretary.
The strikes were in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly using chemical weapons against his own people, and after the strikes, Trump said the U.S., Britain, and France were "prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents." Later, Mattis said the attack was "a one-time shot" that sent "a very strong message to dissuade" Assad from using additional chemical weapons. Administration and military officials told the Times that Mattis is worried about the U.S. getting away from its fight against the Islamic State in Syria, and does not want to get troops involved in the country's bloody civil war. Catherine Garcia