Trump Is Scaring the Hell Out of His Advisers Right Now

New reports shed light on the president’s chaotic Syria policy and beyond.

Chris Kleponis/ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Several reports this week paint an increasingly chaotic portrait for President Donald Trump’s Syria strategy, with those close to the commander-in-chief voicing concerns over his sudden demands to immediately withdraw US troops from the country. Trump’s national security team and military leaders have reportedly persuaded him—for now—to allow them five to six months to complete a withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria, though they warned the president that such an approach would still come with “significant risks and downsides, including the likelihood that Iran and Russia would take advantage of a US vacuum,” according to the Associated Press.

In a remarkable story Friday, the AP reported Trump is prohibiting members of his national security team from referring to this five-to-six-month timetable as “timeline,” despite the fact that the president “indicated that he did not want to hear in October that the military had been unable to fully defeat the Islamic State and had to remain in Syria for longer.” Trump has long criticized former President Barack Obama for, in Trump’s view, unwisely telegraphing US military strategies.

The reports come just days after Trump announced that “it’s time” to get out of Syria. The unscripted remarks alarmed both administration officials and international leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home,” he said. “I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have, as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East the last seven years. We get nothing out of it, nothing.”

Another report, published Thursday by the Washington Post, revealed a startling moment during a military meeting when a CIA official showed Trump a recording of a drone operation in Syria, in which US forces had held off on striking a target until he had moved away from a house where family members were likely inside.

“Why did you wait?” Trump asked, appearing unenthused. It was a question that recalled one of Trump’s more inflammatory suggestions during the presidential campaign—his belief that to successfully eradicate ISIS’s presence, US forces would need to “take out their families.”  He said in December 2015: “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

The alarming reports add to anxiety in the White House, where, Axios’ Mike Allen writes, “Checks are being ignored or have been eliminated, and critics purged as the president is filling time by watching Fox, and by eating dinner with people who feed his ego and conspiracy theories, and who drink in his rants.”


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend