President Trump slammed former Defense Secretary James Mattis Tuesday—but also backed up a report he had criticized Bob Woodward for writing in 2018. Trump told Fox & Friends that he wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2017, but Mattis objected. "I would have rather taken him out. I had him all set. Mattis didn't want to do it," Trump said. "Mattis was against most of that stuff." Trump said, however, that he doesn't regret not killing Assad. Politico reports that after Woodward described a similar exchange in 2018 book Fear, Trump called the book "total fiction" and said the killing of Assad was "never discussed" and "never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated."
In Fear, Woodward wrote that after Assad's regime killed civilians in a chemical attack in 2017, Trump told Mattis: "Let’s f----ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f---ing lot of them." Trump said Tuesday that Mattis, who has publicly criticized him in recent months, was "overrated" and a "terrible general." The Washington Post notes that there a few problems with Trump's argument, beyond him directly contradicting himself: "Trump is disparaging Mattis for opposing something that Trump doesn’t even say he regrets," and since Trump is commander-in-chief, Mattis would not have been able to block a plan to assassinate Assad if Trump had been determined to put one in motion. (Read more President Trump stories.)