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Lawrence O’Donnell: Trump Admin Signaled to Assad It Was ‘OK’ to Gas ‘Babies’

• April 6, 2017 10:24 am

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MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell said Wednesday night that the Trump administration signaled last week it was "OK" with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons on "men, women, children, and babies."

The Assad regime reportedly used chemical weapons against its own people on Tuesday in Idlib Province in northern Syria, killing dozens of people, including children.

"Men, women, children, and babies got gassed in Syria this week because last week, the Trump administration gave the signal that that was OK with President Trump," O'Donnell said on his show "The Last Word."

O'Donnell then said the Trump administration is "populated by the worst amateurs in the history of American government," singling out the nation's top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, who the MSNBC host described as  "the most untrained and inept secretary of state in modern history."

Tillerson said at a press conference in Turkey last week that Assad's future in Syria will be determined by the Syrian people, a comment O'Donnell called "the most dangerous and irresponsible thing that he could have said given the state of the world today."

"I think the status and the longer term, longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people," said Tillerson, who O'Donnell called "horrifyingly dim."

The MSNBC host then argued that Tillerson's statement was a "dramatic turn" from former President Barack Obama's position that Assad must leave a position of power in Syria.

However, the Obama administration had already said when it was in power that Assad's future would be up to the Syrian people, an apparent reversal from its prior position demanding his departure.

In December 2015, then-White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest left the fate of Assad's leadership in the hands of the Syrian people, suggesting to reporters that Assad could maintain a prominent position in the Syrian government if the country's people desire it. He did add that such an outcome is unlikely to happen.

Earnest's comments came one day after then-Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was not seeking "regime change" in Syria, suggesting diplomatic efforts would not focus on Assad's ouster after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Former President Obama had demanded since 2011 that Assad must be removed from power, but his administration steadily softened its stance on the embattled leader's future.

In May 2013, Kerry withdrew his repeated calls for Assad to resign from office. Two years later, the Obama administration indicated Assad could stay in power for several months as part of a political transition, before saying that Assad's future is up to the Syrian people–aligning the U.S. with Russia's long-held position that Syrians would have to decide their own leadership and no foreign government could force Assad's ouster.

Russia has been fighting with Assad's forces to keep the embattled Syrian president in power.