Two Republican senators criticized President Donald Trump's administration for a chemical gas attack in northern Syria on April 4 that killed dozens of innocent civilians, some of whom were children.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona scolded Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to journalists on April 4, notes Talking Points Memo:
This is what obviously happens when the United States of America doesn't behave in a way that [shows] we care about human rights and the needless deaths of innocent people.
When the Secretary of State says that the Syrian people will decide their own future, that sends a signal to [Syrian President] Bashar al Assad that he can do whatever he wants with impunity. It encourages the brutality and mass murder.
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McCain was referring to Tillerson's comments on March 30 in Ankara, Turkey: "[T]he longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people," noted The New York Times.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said on April 5 that al-Assad believes he can act with impunity because of the Trump administration, reported Talking Points Memo:
If you're Bashar al Assad and you read that it's no longer a priority of the United States to have you removed from power, I believe that's an incentive to act with impunity.
I don't believe that was Secretary Tillerson's intention or that's what he thought it would happen. But if you're Assad and we're sending you the signal that we just want to finish this war quickly and maybe we don't like you and we think you're a bad guy, but we think you're better than the alternative, and at this point our priority is just ISIS and we don't care what happens after that, I think that is, in my view, something that would encourage him to do something like what we've just seen.
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Rubio also made reference to Trump's statement that blamed former President Barack Obama for the attack, which was reported by The New York Times on April 4: "President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack."
The New York Times noted that Trump repeatedly told Obama not to attack Syria on Twitter in 2013 and 2014.
Rubio slammed both al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 5:
[Obama's] presidency is over. We have a new presidency. The bottom line is that people who killed those children are Bashar al Assad and Vladimir Putin's military forces.
That's who should be held responsible, 100 percent responsible. They are the ones gassing their own people. It is my personal view that any effort to take even an iota of blame away from those truly responsible does not further our cause.
Rubio called on the Trump administration to say that "Vladimir Putin is a war criminal assisting another war criminal."
On April 5, Trump made another statement about Syria in the White House Rose Garden during a news conference, notes NPR: "It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal that people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many many lines."
In April 2016, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability released a 400-page legal brief detailing torture and the mass murder of tens of thousands of Syrians that was linked to a policy approved by al-Assad, noted The New Yorker.
During his statement, one year later, Trump added: "It's very, very possible that it's already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."