Trump: Mattis was a highly overrated general, a bad leader
President Trump on Tuesday said he had “a shot” to take out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but didn’t take it because then-Defense Secretary James Mattis opposed the plan.
“I would've rather taken him out. I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general," Trump said on "Fox & Friends."
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Trump was asked about a passage in Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s 2018 book, “Fear,” in which Trump purportedly called Mattis and said he wanted to kill Assad after the Syrian dictator launched a chemical attack on civilians in 2017.
“Let’s f—ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f—ing lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.
According to Woodward, Mattis told Trump he would get on it but then told an aide “we’re going to be much more measured.” Eventually, his team developed a plan for an airstrike on targets that Trump eventually ordered.
Trump on Tuesday said Mattis was a “terrible general” and a “bad leader” but said he didn’t regret not taking out Assad.
“I don’t regret that. I could have lived either way with that. You know I considered him certainly not a good person, but I had a shot to take him out if I wanted to, and Mattis was against it,” he said. “Mattis was against most of that stuff.”
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Trump's comments on Assad contradict his past statements about Woodward's reporting. In 2018 Trump said an assassination was "never even discussed."
“I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States. Never even discussed, the book is total fiction,” Trump said in the Oval Office in September 2018.
“No, that was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated and it should not have been written about in the book,” he said.
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In the interview Tuesday, Trump also noted how U.S. attacks, launched after Mattis resigned in 2018, took out ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019 and Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in 2020.
“I took out Soleimani as you know, took out al-Baghdadi. These are two of the biggest terrorists,” he added. “Al-Baghdadi founded ISIS. He was trying to build it again after I wiped it out.”
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