In the wake of a deadly chemical attack in Syria, some Republicans in Congress have called on President Trump to stand up more forcefully to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—with Senator Marco Rubio going so far as to suggest that the administration’s foreign policy has emboldened him. Now, there are indications that Trump may be willing to take a harder line, as the president is reportedly considering the possibility of a military response.
After the strike on a rebel-held town in Syria on Tuesday, several of the Senate’s more hawkish lawmakers pushed the Trump administration to make a move. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said in a joint statement on Thursday that Assad “must pay a punitive cost for this horrific attack,” and called on the United States to “lead an international coalition to ground Assad’s air force.” Graham earlier called the attack “the biggest test yet of the Trump presidency,” while Senator Tom Cotton said the United States must adopt “a stronger Syria policy” starting “with demanding Assad’s departure.”
The Trump administration has so far sent mixed messages on Syria, and it’s impossible to predict what the president will ultimately decide to do. But CNN reported on Thursday that “Trump has told some members of Congress that he is considering military action in retaliation,” citing an unnamed source. The story added that “the president had not firmly decided to go ahead with it.” Citing a U.S. official, Reuters also reported on Thursday that “the Pentagon and the White House are in detailed discussions on military options” in response to the attack.