Mattis reportedly wanted Congress' support before striking Syria -- but Trump had other plans

 

  • US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly pushed President Donald Trump to get congressional approval before launching new military strikes on Syria.
  • Mattis feared an escalated conflict with Russia, Syria's ally.
  • Trump shook off the suggestion and reportedly wanted a fast and dramatic action against the Syrian regime for a suspected chemical weapons attack there earlier this month.


US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly had reservations about President Donald Trump's unilateral decision to strike at Syria last week, in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people there earlier in April.

Mattis tried persuading Trump to seek congressional approval before launching the US-led airstrikes, but ultimately failed, military and White House officials said to The New York Times. Mattis reportedly feared escalating a conflict with Russia, Syria's ally — a possibility he likely considered, due to the Russian troops staged at military bases throughout the country.

Mattis had reportedly advocated for acquiring congressional approval in meetings leading up to the airstrike, partly because he viewed the public's support of military operations as an essential component, according to people familiar with the situation.

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Reaction to Trump ordering strikes against Syria
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Reaction to Trump ordering strikes against Syria

**Click through the following slides to see reaction to President Donald Trump's announcement that strikes were underway in Syria.**

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump is right to assert that the Assad regime’s evil acts cannot go unanswered, and the nations that ena… https://t.co/TdJYCTMZmk
Praying for our armed forces who are in harm’s way, and their families. Yes I am. This is a very serious moment we… https://t.co/rxrHykfmXH
While Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for his unlawful use of chemical weapons against civilians, the stri… https://t.co/hwK0KJRCES
These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless. The next speaker of the House mu… https://t.co/JUAePSU7Y3
Congratulations to the Trump administration for adopting the same failed foreign policy and ignoring of the constit… https://t.co/2s2F8Vq9vc
I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s “Constitution,” but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.
Sen Markey says tonight’s attack on Syria neither constitutional nor wise. https://t.co/9oGiPtLgVl
The use of chemical weapons on civilians, including children, is one of the most abhorrent acts imaginable, and the… https://t.co/dmvYyfUExz
The barbarism from the Assad regime will not be tolerated. America and its allies are together to deliver the conse… https://t.co/vwmXHVNiPR
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Despite Mattis' efforts, the officials said Trump wanted a fast and dramatic action against the Syrian regime — a response that echoed the same tone from the president's previous tweets on the issue.

"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria," Trump said in a tweet. "Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"

Trump's decision to narrowly hit three targets — a scientific research center, chemical weapons storage facility, and a chemical equipment storage facility — was considered a compromise. Of the 105 missiles that were launched in the less than two-minute attack, none endangered Russian troops or hit military assets believed to be responsible for Syria's latest suspected chemical attack, The Times said.

"They will lose years of research and development data," Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said in a press conference shortly after the strikes on Friday.

Following the attack, Russia lashed out and said "the worst apprehensions have come true."

27 PHOTOS
Destruction in Syria after US-led airstrikes
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Destruction in Syria after US-led airstrikes
A Syrian soldier sprays water on the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier sprays water on the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. FIFTH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS - APRIL 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile at Syria as part of an allied strike April 14, 2018. Monterey is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.(Photo by Matthew Daniels/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
A journalist films the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. FIFTH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS - APRIL 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile at Syria as part of an allied strike April 14, 2018. Monterey is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.(Photo by Matthew Daniels/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian soldiers inspect the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A Syrian soldier inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Syrian soldiers inspect the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian soldiers extinguish a fire in the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier takes a picture of the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists take pictures of the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian government forces wait for vehicles carrying Jaish al-Islam fighters and their family members evacuated from the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma, to arrive at the Wafideen crossing on April 14, 2018. Rebels in Syria's Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons and their leader left the enclave, a monitor said, signalling the end of one of the bloodiest assaults of Syria's seven-year war. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
A Syrian military officer records a video inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
A Syrian firefighter is seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
Syrian firefighters are seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
A Syrian firefighter is seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14,2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
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"Our warnings have been left unheard," Russian ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said in a statement, making it clear that Russia viewed the US action as a direct threat.

Trump hailed the US-UK-France airstrikes as a success, but foreign intelligence officials gave a bleaker assessment.

"If President Trump had ordered the strike only to show that the US responded to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's use of chemical weapons, then that goal has been achieved," a senior defense official said in a report published by the Israeli news website, Ynetnews.

"But if there was another objective — such as paralyzing the ability to launch chemical weapons or deterring Assad from using it again — it's doubtful any of these objectives have been met," the official said.

SEE ALSO: 'We are being threatened': Russia seethes over US-led military strikes in Syria

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