Spicer Won't Say Assad Should Go, Presses Chemical Weapons Agreement

Alex Brandon

White House press secretary Sean Spicer avoided answering on Friday whether President Donald Trump's decision to order a missile strike against a Syrian airfield on Thursday indicated that he thought Syrian President Bashar Assad should relinquish power.

Instead, when asked about the Syrian president, he told members of the press: "First and foremost, the President believes that the Syrian government, the Assad regime should, at the minimum, agree to abide by the agreements that they made not to use chemical weapons. I think that should be a minimum standard throughout the world," according to a transcript provided by the White House.

Spicer also said that the missile strike -- made in response to a suspected poison gas attack by Assad's regime -- was "absolutely" part of an "America First" foreign policy, and that the strikes were covered by the war powers granted to the commander in chief.

On Thursday, in a statement announcing the strikes, Trump said they were in the "vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."

The White House website defines an "America First" foreign policy, which purportedly formed the foundation of Trump's presidential campaign and the philosophy of his young administration, by saying in part: "[I]n pursuing a foreign policy based on American interests, we will embrace diplomacy. The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies."

Spicer also said that images of the poison gas attack's effects on civilians in Syria was "very disturbing and tragic and moving to him.”

“Obviously, there’s -- beyond the information that he gets in his [President's Daily Brief], there were very clear images that were available online, in newspapers, and on television that everyone in the world could see," he said.

According to Spicer, Trump asked on Thursday night "about reaction from the world community as well as congressional leaders and was informed that there was fairly unanimous praise for the decision and the actions the President took."

Asked if he thought the strike could provoke a military response from Russia or Iran, as Trump has warned in the past would be the case, Spicer returned to his point about earning the world's approval.

"If you’ve seen the response from the world community, including some of the countries that you’ve mentioned, I think that they understand that the U.S. acted appropriately and, in most cases, there is widespread praise from around the globe for the President’s actions," he said.

This post has been updated.

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