Trump, Tillerson suggest Assad should be removed, in apparent reversal
The Trump administration signaled Thursday that it seeks to remove Bashar Assad from power in Syria, an apparent reversal after a suspected chemical attack that the White House has blamed on the Syrian government.
President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that "something should happen" with the Syrian president following the attack, which left dozens dead, including children.
"I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. He's there and I guess he's running things, so something should happen," Trump told reporters while flying to a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
In a separate news conference Thursday afternoon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad's actions suggest "it would seem there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people." Just last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that Assad's hold on power in Syria was a "political reality that we have to accept."
The top American diplomat also urged the Russian government to "consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime." Tillerson added that "steps are underway" for a possible international effort to remove Assad.
Their statements came as multiple outlets reported the Trump administration is mulling a possible military response to the attack in Syria. Defense Secretary James Mattis will brief Trump on military options at Mar-a-Lago later Thursday, NBC News reported, citing a U.S. official.
The potential actions include grounding all Syrian aircraft, strikes against Syrian air defenses, and targeting strikes against the people responsible for the suspected chemical attack, according to NBC.
The Defense Department worries U.S. forces already in the region offering assistance in the fight against the Islamic State terror group could become targets, NBC added.
On Wednesday, Trump said the attack "crossed a lot of lines" but did not go into detail about what actions he would take in response.
Tillerson said Thursday that the U.S. is considering an "appropriate response" in Syria.
The secretary of state and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley increased pressure on Russia following the massacre in Syria. Russia, which has backed the Assad regime, blamed the attack on Syrian rebels.
The Syrian government has also said it had nothing to do with the attack.
Watch: Trump says he hasn't discussed Syria options with lawmakers
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