The United States has said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government is responsible for a chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. According to a report from the Washington Post, the attack left dozens of people — including children — dead.
During a news conference alongside Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Rose Garden at the White House, Trump said that the attack had a "big impact" on him.
““It crossed a lot of lines for me," he said. "When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.”
Trump’s comment about a “red line” was a reference to an ultimatum on chemical weapons that former President Barack Obama issued to Assad’s regime, a threat he ultimately did not enforce.
Trump said the attack led him to change his thoughts about Assad’s regime.
Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration viewed Assad’s regime “a political reality that we have to accept.”
As a candidate for president, Trump called Assad "much tougher and much smarter" than Obama and former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. During his campaign, Trump also argued that if the United States sought to replace Assad, someone “worse” may come into power.
But on Wednesday, the president said, “I do change.”
“I am flexible,” Trump said. “I am proud of that flexibility. I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact. It was a horrible, horrible thing. I've been watching it and seeing it, and it does not get any worse than that. I have that flexibility. And it is very, very possible, and I will tell you it is already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”
Trump said that he thinks the Obama administration “had a great opportunity to solve this crisis a long time ago when he said the red line in the sand.”
“And when he didn't cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world, because it was a blank threat,” the president said. “I think it was something that was not one of our better days as a country.”
After arguing that Obama’s inaction on Syria emboldened Assad, Trump acknowledged that “I now have responsibility.”
“And I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly,” he said. “I will tell you that. It is now my responsibility.”
Although Trump said the attack went “beyond a red line,” he did not detail what his response to the attack would be.
While the United States has placed blame for the attack on the Assad regime, Russia has claimed that Syrian rebels are to blame, saying that a Syrian airstrike hit an insurgent weapons depot, leaking toxic gas.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) echoed Russia’s claim Wednesday, arguing that Assad may not be responsible.
"Frankly, I don't think Assad would have done that," Massie said during an interview on CNN. "It does not serve his interests."