John McCain: Trump Team 'Partially To Blame' For Syria Chemical Attack

The senator said Rex Tillerson may have signaled that the U.S. would steer clear of conflict in the country.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that he believes rhetoric from President Donald Trump’s administration is “probably partially to blame” for Syria’s deadly chemical weapons attack on its civilians last week.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said just days before the attack that it would be up to the “Syrian people” to determine the “longer-term status” of President Bashar Assad, which may have signaled that Assad had nothing to fear from the U.S.

“I think it probably was partially to blame” for the attack, McCain told “Face the Nation.”

McCain also said he doesn’t agree with Tillerson’s stance that the U.S. needs to concentrate on ISIS before it can look at Assad’s position. The senator said it’s imperative now to have a clear, carefully devised strategy for Syrian action.

“I believe that the United States of America can address both at the same time,” McCain said. “We can walk and chew gum. We have the capability to do both.”

Trump launching an airstrike against Syria on Thursday in response to the chemical attack “was an excellent first step,” he added.

“Now it’s vitally important we develop a strategy, we put that strategy in motion, and we bring about peace in the region,” McCain said.

The Trump administration on Sunday appeared divided over what its Syria policy is now. Tillerson said the airstrike was a one-time response to the chemical weapons attack and did not signal a shift in U.S. policy. But United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said there can be no peace in Syria while Assad is in power.

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