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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.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.