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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said President Trump's signal that he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria "emboldened" Syrian President Bashar Assad to launch a suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians.

Saturday's attack unfolded in a town near Damascus amid a resumed offensive by the Syrian government. The Assad regime has denied responsibility, but many believe it is behind the strike that killed dozens.

On Sunday morning, Trump condemned the attack as "mindless," referred to Assad as an "animal" and said the disaster never would have happened if former President Obama had crossed his infamous "red line" with the Syrian dictator.

In a statement, McCain acknowledged that Trump inherited a bad situation in Syria due to years of inaction from his predecessor, but he criticized Trump for the talk of withdrawing from troops from the country.

"President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria. Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma," the statement reads.

He said Trump was quick to call out Assad and the Russian and Iranian governments on Twitter, but he said the question now is if he will do anything about it.

"The president responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes."

Here's the full text of McCain's statement:

President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria. Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma. Initial accounts show dozens of innocent civilians, including children, have been targeted by this vicious bombardment designed to burn and choke the human body and leave victims writhing in unspeakable pain.

Crimes against humanity have become Assad’s trademarks in his relentless campaign against the people of Syria that has killed more than half a million people and forced 11 million from their homes. President Trump was quick to call out Assad today, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter. The question now is whether he will do anything about it. The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.

To be sure, President Trump inherited bad options after years of inaction by his predecessor in Syria. History will render a bitter judgment on America for that failure. But no one should believe we are out of options. We can and should change course – starting with a comprehensive strategy that lays out clear objectives for our mission there. It's not too late to stop Assad's impunity and begin to rewrite this terrible chapter in our history.

Watch former State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton react above.


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