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President Donald Trump said in an interview to air Wednesday that "we're not going into Syria” after the United States launched a cruise missile strike against a government airbase in that nation over a chemical attack in the country’s six-year civil war.
Trump in an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo also tried to blame the administration of former President Barack Obama of past inaction, saying that "what I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it," according to excerpts released by Fox Business on Tuesday.
Asked if the United States is going to get involved in Syria, Trump said: "No. But if I see them using gas and using things that — I mean even some of the worst tyrants in the world didn't use the kind of gases that they used. And some of the gases are unbelievably potent."
"So when I saw that, I said we have to do something," Trump said. Trump said he was dismayed by the images of dying children in last Tuesday's alleged chemical attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, which U.S. officials believe involved a nerve agent.
Obama did consider air strikes in 2013 in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and at the time Trump on Twitter said the U.S. shouldn't strike Syria at all, and shouldn't do so without Congressional approval.
The matter never came up for a vote amid a Russia-brokered agreement for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons. U.S. Special Forces are operating in Syria to assist forces fighting ISIS, and the United States is leading a coalition conducting air strikes against the terror group in Syria.
"We're not going into Syria," Trump said in the interview. “But when I see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons, which they agreed not to use under the Obama administration, but they violated it.”
Meanwhile, Trump's "even the worst tyrants" line echoed statements that put his White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in the middle of an uproar earlier Tuesday.
Spicer on Tuesday was criticized and eventually apologized after saying that Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II at a press briefing in which he condemned the use of chemical weapons allegedly by Assad’s forces.
"You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. The comment drew criticism over Spicer’s omission of the Nazis' murder of millions of Jews in gas chambers during the Holocaust. The Anne Frank Center called on Spicer to be fired.
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday also brought up past wars in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but he said that chemical weapons were not used on battlefields in either World War II — which may not be entirely accurate; allegations have been made of its use against Russian troops and in battle against Chinese forces by Japan — or the Korean War.
In the Fox Business interview Trump also said he is committed to healthcare and tax reform.
"Health care is going to happen at some point," the president said. "Now, if it doesn’t happen fast enough I’ll start the taxes, but the tax reform and the tax cuts are better if I can do health care first."