After the FBI raided the office and hotel room of longtime personal Trump attorney Michael Cohen, the president displayed noticeable outrage while calling the raid “a disgrace.” Amid this turmoil, POTUS also turned his attentions to the apparent chemical attack on Syrian civilians that many suspect was conducted by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Per CNN, Trump vowed to make a swift decision on how to respond to this attack while warning, “Nothing’s off the table.” Further, Trump promised to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable if he bears responsibility: “He may. And if he does, it’s gonna be very tough. Very tough.”
What will this response be? After Syrian pro-government forces (who are aided by Russia and Iran) carried out a similarly horrific attack in April 2017, Trump conducted a missile strike on a Syrian airbase, which led to Russia and Iran issuing a threat if Trump decided to cross red lines again. In order to oversee whatever the U.S. decides to do, Trump has now cancelled a summit appearance in Latin America. The White House statement reads as follows:
“President Trump will not attend the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru or travel to Bogota, Colombia, as originally scheduled. At the President’s request, the vice president will travel in his stead. The President will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.”
The Wall Street Journal details how Defense Secretary Jim Mattis isn’t taking a military strike off the table. Further, Mattis is acting in a manner consistent with ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by calling out Russia for failing as guarantor in holding Syria to its 2013 agreement to destroy its chemical weapons. Mattis is vowing to work with NATO partners to address this issue in the future, and the recent report that Russia is jamming U.S. drones in Syria may sway whatever response happens.
In the meantime, the U.S. State Department is also saying that Russia “ultimately bears responsibility” for the latest chemical attack, which makes one wonder if Putin and Trump will soon be meeting in the White House after all. Whatever the case, Trump is expected to drop his decision on a Syrian response (which will arrive in addition to Israel’s new, deadly strike on the same airbase hit by Trump last year) within days.