Sep 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump says he wanted to assassinate Bashar al-Assad but Mattis was opposed to it

President Trump on Tuesday confirmed that he wanted to order an assassination against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but former Secretary of Defense James Mattis "was against it."

What he's saying: "I would have rather taken him out. I had him all set. Mattis didn't want to do it," Trump said on "Fox & Friends." His comments confirm a detail reported in journalist Bob Woodward's 2018 book "Fear."

  • "No, I don't regret that. I could have lived either way with that. I considered him, certainly not a good person. But I had a shot to take him out if I wanted and Mattis was against it. Mattis was against most of that stuff. He'd keep you in military but he didn't know how to win."

Reality check: Trump's comments Tuesday contradicted his own statement to reporters in 2018, when Trump said an operation to kill Assad "was never even contemplated."

Context: Trump wanted the assassination after it was believed the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack in Douma, Syria, according to Woodward's reporting.

  • The administration instead eventually conducted targeted airstrikes on Syria's chemical weapons sites.
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