Apr 9, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Trump posed for photos and ate steak before telling Xi about the Syrian airstrikes

Alex Brandon / AP

It all started Thursday morning, when the President started notifying members of Congress he was considering taking military action in Syria. By 4 pm ET Trump had ordered the strikes, making the call from his "Southern White House."

Here's a breakdown of how it all went down Thursday, including everything from what Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping ate for dinner to when he finally revealed the news of the missile strike:

  • How long it took Trump to decide to strike: Within 45 minutes of arriving at Mar-a-Lago, Trump ordered the strikes. He arrived at 3:15 pm ET and signed off on the strikes at approximately 4 pm ET, per Sean Spicer's Friday briefing with reporters.
  • Who helped Trump think it through? Three groups joined a video conference via secure video teleconference (according to Sean Spicer) to discuss the military path forward for Syria. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley laid out the options. Here's who was in the video conference:
  1. In the room at Mar-a-Lago, (which was a SCIF, per Spicer): Mattis, Tillerson, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Gary Cohn, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, Deputy Assistant to the President Michale Anton
  2. In the WH in the Situation Room: VP Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel
  3. A group of officials in the Pentagon also joined the call
  4. And Haley joined in from New York.
  • He entertained Xi after making the decision to strike: 90 minutes after ordering the strikes, the President posed for photos with the Xi Jinping, his wife, Peng Liyuan, and Melania Trump.
Alex Brandon / AP
  • Then the President had dinner: Trump sat through a steak and pan-seared sole fish dinner with the Chinese couple and about 20 others in attendance. Dinner started at 7:10 pm. Trump resisted answering questions about Syria to reporters when they shouted questions at him, per a pool report, but told Xi sometime during the dinner that he had ordered the strikes.
  • At 7:40 pm the strikes were launched, according to Spicer, and at 8:30 or 8:40 pm the first impact on the ground was made.
  • Xi Jinping and his wife left dinner in a motorcade at least 10 minutes after the strikes made impact, at 8:51 pm, per a pool report.
  • After dinner, Mattis updated Trump on the status of the strikes.
  • Trump confirmed the strikes to reporters at 9:48 pm.

For our coverage of the immediate reactions to the strike, click here. For our coverage of countries' takes on the strikes, click here. For more about the motivation and the aftermath of the strikes on the ground, click here and here.

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