National Security

Kaine Acknowledges Obama Admin Failed to Rid Syria of Chemical Weapons

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) acknowledged Tuesday that the Obama administration failed to rid Syria of the Assad regime's chemical weapons, despite repeated claims from the past administration that it completely eliminated the stockpile.

MSNBC's Willie Geist asked Kaine on "Morning Joe" about the Obama administration's program to take and destroy chemical weapons held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has used such weapons on his own people, including unarmed civilians, dozens of times during Syria's ongoing conflict.

"As you know well, President Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, believed that they had 100 percent, in their words, of chemical weapons out of Syria, that their policy had worked," Geist said. "Clearly, that was wrong, we know now. How did they get it so wrong there?"

"Well, it was clear that massive amounts of the chemical weapons stockpile was destroyed; Virginians were involved in that effort to destroy chemical weapons," Kaine responded. "But there were both chemical weapons they spirited away and then there's also—Syria uses some kinds of chemicals that were not officially on the banned list but that nevertheless have significant health impacts when they're used, and when a nation is using chemical weapons against their own civilians it's a humanitarian disaster."

Kaine called for a "robust response" to Saturday's suspected chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held enclave in eastern Ghouta, where dozens of civilians, including several children, died by suffocation. The U.S. government, in addition to numerous analysts, commentators, and Syrian activist groups, have blamed the Assad regime for the assault. But Kaine added that he does not believe President Donald Trump has the authority to launch retaliatory military strikes without congressional approval.

Geist then went back to again ask Kaine to clarify whether he believes the Obama administration failed to remove all of Syria's chemical weapons.

"But you agree that the Obama administration had missteps there and didn't fully take care of the problem the way they described publicly?" Geist asked.

"It's clear that while much of the weapons stockpile was destroyed, other aspects of it were either hidden away or they've been remanufactured since, and that has led to this set of just horrific atrocities committed by the Assad regime," Kaine said.

Top Obama administration officials claimed repeatedly in 2014 that a deal they struck with Russia and the Syrian government successfully removed all of Assad's chemical weapons. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry even said in July that "we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out."

Critics have lambasted the Obama administration for its claims regarding Syria's chemical weapons after the Assad regime used them several times after the deal was struck.