Trump: Putin, Iran responsible for backing Assad

President Trump tweeted about the Syrian chemical attack, saying Russia and Iran are responsible for backing "animal Assad."

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 11:01 PM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 11:06 PM

Donald Trump always strives to command center stage, but the pugilistic American President is now embroiled in so many escalating global and domestic tests of will, it's becoming impossible to keep count.

Unrestrained and lashing out at enemies at home and abroad, Trump is increasingly exporting the turbulence that has exhausted Washington.

Yet another pivotal week for the Trump presidency opens on Monday with top officials gathering under the direction of new national security adviser John Bolton to discuss how to respond to a chemical weapons attack in Syria with the world on edge over a potential strike.

The assault on civilians, already blamed by Trump on Bashar al-Assad, is raising the prospect of new US military action, since the Syrian President was clearly not deterred by American missile strikes after a similar attack last year. Heightening tensions, Syrian state television reported a missile strike on an airbase Sunday night, which it said was likely from the US. The Pentagon, however, denied responsibility, and Russia's Defense Ministry has since claimed that Israel was behind the strikes.

On Sunday, Trump's belligerent form of statesmanship took an unexpected turn as he almost unprecedentedly singled out President Vladimir Putin for blame over the chemical weapons attack in a potentially fateful moment for America's fast worsening relations with nuclear rival Russia.

Trump is meanwhile driving America to the precipice of a full-on trade war with China, apparently racing out well ahead of his top economic advisers and setting up a very public confrontation with China's strongman leader Xi Jinping.

There's no respite for the crisis-battered White House at home. Trump's pick for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is expected to endure a bruising confirmation hearing Thursday, with Democrats out for blood.

Trump's dispatch of the National Guard last week to the southwest border to respond to what critics see as a nonexistent crisis further polarized a Washington immigration showdown that is likely to worsen in the days ahead.

And the constant churn of staff departures and internal administration discord claimed another victim on Sunday night, as National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton left, just before Bolton takes the reins.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is still hanging by a thread after a dizzying sequence of scandals, although the President can change on a dime, so there's no guarantee he'll be in the job by week's end.

The Russia cloud that has loomed over Trump every day since he took office is also likely to thicken this week. An appearance Tuesday on Capitol Hill by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is likely to revive scrutiny in Russian election meddling that is all but guaranteed to make the President fume.

As ever, there's the potential for further damaging revelations related to the special counsel probe of Robert Mueller.

CNN reported exclusively Friday that Trump has begun informal prep work for a potential interview with Mueller that his legal team opposes but would represent another test of wills between the President and an adversary.

And Trump is almost certain to be gearing up by the end of the week to renew his public feud with James Comey, as the fired FBI chief is breaking his seclusion before the publication of his tell-all memoir on April 17 with an interview on ABC two days before.

In the short term however, the showdowns over Syria and China that are likely to prove especially vexing for Trump.

The President vented his disgust in a tweet on Sunday over an attack on civilians that reportedly killed at least 48 people.

"Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world," Trump wrote, vowing there would be a "big price" to be paid for the attack.

Trump's international credibility and willingness to enforce his red lines will be in question if the attack can be definitively linked to Assad's forces.

But to be more effective than before, US action would presumably need to be more robust. That would risk drawing Washington deeper into the war and seriously worsening tensions with Assad's backers Russia and Iran.

Any action in Syria against Assad would also highlight the contradictions in Trump's impulses regarding the country's brutal civil war. Less than two weeks ago the President said he wanted to get troops out of Syria "real soon."

Republican Sen. John McCain said that Trump's equivocation over Syria may have helped spur the chemical attack.

"Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma," McCain said in a statement.

If the President does take military action, he may draw substantial support in Congress.

"Last time this happened, the President did a targeted attack to take out some of the facilities. That may be an option that we should consider now," Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

The top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, said that if Assad was behind the chemical weapons attack it would be a "war crime of staggering inhumanity." But she also took a shot at Trump: "The Trump administration must finally provide a smart, strong and consistent strategy in Syria," Pelosi said in a statement.

While Trump contemplates sending American forces into harm's way in Syria, he is also acting as a general in a different kind of war, over trade with China.

Last week, Trump consciously stepped up the showdown, threatening another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to punish intellectual property theft injecting new volatility into global stock markets and setting up possible retaliation from Beijing.

Trump's decision to heighten the confrontation in such a public way has effectively put his own credibility on the line in the dispute -- even as he insists that it is not personal with China's leader.

"President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade. China will take down its Trade Barriers because it is the right thing to do," Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Despite his confidence, however, any resolution looks a long way off, raising the political stakes, since in its retaliatory moves, Beijing is directly targeting the Trump coalition hitting agricultural goods sectors like soybeans and pork -- that support thousands of jobs in states that the President won in 2016.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed nearly 600 points on Friday further threatening the Trump era bull run that the President often touts as proof that his economic policies are working.

Trump's new top economic adviser Larry Kudlow is continuing to try to dampen global investor concerns over the looming trade war, suggesting that the tariffs may never go into effect, even as the President ratchets up the pressure.

"He is pretty good at negotiating, but he is also pretty good at standing his ground," Kudlow said, explaining Trump's tactics.

But the truth is, in the China duel, as in the Middle East, or with Russia, or in the endless battles raging in Washington at the President's instigation, no one can really predict how any of this ends.

Terre Haute
Mostly Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 67°
Robinson
Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 66°
Indianapolis
Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 64°
Rockville
Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 64°
Casey
Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 64°
Brazil
Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 67°
Marshall
Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 67°
Scattered Showers and Thundershowers
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1367126

Reported Deaths: 24801
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook54734510147
DuPage908351288
Will75828993
Lake67459991
Kane58579778
Winnebago33393477
Madison30589520
McHenry28705288
St. Clair27915514
Peoria23202317
Champaign20710145
Sangamon18831234
McLean18236181
Tazewell16999291
Rock Island15041318
Kankakee14232210
Kendall1310594
LaSalle12589244
Macon10784200
DeKalb9912119
Vermilion9702132
Adams8476123
Williamson7446130
Whiteside7166172
Boone672074
Ogle612081
Grundy590176
Clinton576590
Coles569196
Knox5573150
Jackson503364
Henry501167
Livingston483385
Stephenson477183
Woodford476277
Effingham472972
Macoupin471583
Marion4472115
Franklin446375
Monroe435793
Jefferson4304120
Lee417453
Randolph413484
Fulton395557
Morgan390282
Logan389159
Montgomery373474
Bureau372782
Christian368673
Perry317960
Fayette317855
Iroquois302966
McDonough286747
Jersey269350
Douglas259035
Saline256654
Lawrence240625
Shelby229937
Union226240
Crawford212326
Bond205524
Cass199525
Jo Daviess181924
Clark180633
Warren180246
Pike179352
Ford179147
Wayne178053
Hancock176231
Carroll175636
Richland175240
Edgar170840
White169826
Washington164425
Moultrie161128
De Witt151725
Mason151645
Piatt150014
Clay148143
Mercer147533
Johnson144615
Greene144033
Massac134640
Wabash134612
Cumberland129019
Menard123712
Jasper115118
Marshall107418
Hamilton83615
Schuyler7607
Brown7106
Pulaski6867
Stark63824
Edwards56912
Henderson52414
Calhoun5182
Putnam4833
Scott4791
Alexander46811
Gallatin4604
Hardin38612
Pope3224
Out of IL20
Unassigned02356

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 735999

Reported Deaths: 13486
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1007151752
Lake54249977
Allen40946680
St. Joseph36335553
Hamilton35829408
Elkhart28844443
Tippecanoe22475219
Vanderburgh22367397
Porter18946311
Johnson18067381
Hendricks17317315
Clark13036192
Madison12762339
Vigo12501249
LaPorte12086215
Monroe11957172
Delaware10755187
Howard10001218
Kosciusko9466117
Hancock8373142
Bartholomew8098156
Warrick7799155
Floyd7690178
Grant7098174
Wayne7072199
Boone6745101
Morgan6611140
Dubois6166117
Marshall6111112
Cass5876105
Dearborn583178
Henry5785105
Noble565984
Jackson503773
Shelby494396
Lawrence4602120
Gibson437192
Harrison436672
DeKalb430585
Clinton428453
Montgomery425889
Whitley398739
Huntington394480
Steuben391057
Miami383968
Knox372890
Jasper372649
Putnam363760
Wabash355380
Adams342755
Ripley340770
Jefferson331881
White317754
Daviess298399
Wells292081
Decatur285992
Fayette282162
Greene280585
Posey272034
LaGrange268970
Scott267554
Clay261347
Washington242132
Randolph242081
Spencer232931
Jennings230949
Starke219354
Fountain213946
Sullivan212242
Owen203356
Jay197830
Fulton196040
Carroll190420
Orange184754
Perry184637
Rush174025
Vermillion170044
Franklin168535
Tipton163445
Parke146716
Pike135634
Blackford135132
Pulaski117445
Newton108934
Brown102641
Crawford101415
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82615
Switzerland7948
Union71410
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417