Tight circle of security officials crafted Trump’s Syria warning

Politico reports: President Donald Trump’s blunt, public warning to the Syrian regime issued late Monday night was cobbled together in a series of hurried discussions, squeezed in between meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — and kept among a small, tight circle of top officials.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both arrived at the White House late Monday afternoon, ahead of the Rose Garden ceremony where Trump and Modi both read prepared statements. Upon their arrival, according to a senior defense official, they were informed of Trump’s plan to issue a public warning to Syrian president Bashar Assad, based on new intelligence that the Syrian administration was making preparations for another chemical weapons attack on its own people.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who also was at the White House for meetings, had already been briefed and weighed in on the plan, administration sources said.

But no stand-alone principals meeting followed to discuss the intelligence, which Trump received Monday morning, according to two senior administration officials.

Rather, over the course of the day, officials said, McMaster, Mattis, Tillerson and a few other top officials had the opportunity to “work the language” of the statement, in between Modi meetings. None of them expressed any hesitation or disagreement about the decision to issue a public warning, according to one of the senior administration officials.

But a Defense Department official acknowledged that the events were “fast moving” and that there were minimal deliberations about the bold move — and that only a limited number of top military officials were aware of the new intelligence and planned response. [Continue reading…]

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