Donald Trump has claimed that he supported “taking out” Syrian president Bashar Assad following chemical weapons attacks but was his previous Defense Secretary James Mattis.
His claims on Fox & Friends on Tuesday appear to confirm reporting in journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House, which the president had emphatically denied after its publication.
During White House briefing on 5 September 2018, the US president said that suggestions that he supported “the assassination” of president Assad were “never even discussed.”
“Not at all. No, the book is fiction,” he told reporters. “I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of president Assad by the United States. Never even discussed. The book is total fiction, just like he wrote in the past about other presidents.”
He added: “You look at what he said about president Bush, what he said about president Obama. Big, scandalous thing. Big – it lasts for about a day. No, that was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated. And it should not have been written about in the book. It’s just more fiction. The book is total fiction.”
Two years later, he told Fox & Friends that he “would’ve rather taken him out.”
“I had him all set,” the president said. “Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general.”
Asked whether he regrets halting efforts to kill president Assad, and whether his decision was motivated by Russian military support for Syria, Trump said:“No, I don’t regret that. I could’ve lived either way with that. But I had a shot to take him out if I wanted, and Mattis was against it. Mattis was against most of that stuff.”