Top Trump officials publicly urge Russia to ditch Syria following chemical weapons attack

Rex Tillerson talks Russia
(Image credit: Twitter/@FaceTheNation)

On Sunday's political talk shows, top officials in President Trump's administration gave different assessments of Trump's goals with Syria and its most important backer, Russia, following Trump's Thursday strike on one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's air bases. Trump's United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, said Assad's ouster was "inevitable" and a top U.S. priority, along with defeating the Islamic State and getting "the Iranian influence" out of Syria. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, making his debut on the talk shows, told Fox News that Assad's removal is key to any political solution to Syria's civil war, but "we're not saying we are the ones to effect that change."

Trump is "prepared to do more," McMaster said. "I think what we should do is ask Russia: How could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn't know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?" Russia should also ask itself, "Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?" he added. "Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is traveling to Moscow late Tuesday, said the U.S. doesn't have any proof that Russia was involved in Syria's chemical weapons attack, though the U.S. military is investigating. But he also had some moderately tough words for Russia. America's top priority in Syria is defeating ISIS, he said, but "I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility." You can watch more of Tillerson's thoughts on Russia's involvement with Syria in the CBS Face the Nation clip below. Peter Weber

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