A bipartisan pair of senators on Wednesday knocked President Trump’s attempt to shift blame to former President Obama for a chemical attack this week in Syria.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that I disagreed with many of the decisions made by the Obama administration on foreign policy, but that presidency’s over; we have a new presidency,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said.
“Bottom line is the people who killed these children are Bashar al-Assad with the assistance of Vladimir Putin’s military forces,” he said, referring to the presidents of Syria and Russia, respectively.
Rubio was speaking at a press conference alongside Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), condemning Tuesday’s suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.The Assad regime is suspected of carrying out an attack against civilians in rebel-held Idlib Province, where victims showed symptoms similar to what would be expected from sarin gas.
At least 70 civilians were killed, including dozens of children. Some estimates have the death toll as high as 100 in what is being described as the worst chemical attack in the civil war since 2013.
In his statement on the attack, Trump blamed Obama for failing to enforce his “red line” after Assad used chemical weapons in 2013.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”
On Wednesday, Cardin said it’s time to look forward, not backward.
“We’re not looking backward right now; we’re looking forward,” Cardin said. “We got to be able to deal with the current situation. He is the commander in chief. He is the president of the United States. We need know to President Trump’s policies for countering these atrocities and the challenges we have.”
Rubio earlier Wednesday said it wasn’t a coincidence the attack happened after members of the Trump administration signaled it was no longer a U.S. priority to remove Assad from power. He added later that blame for Tuesday’s attack rests solely with Assad and Putin.
“That’s who should be held responsible, 100 percent responsible,” Rubio said. “They are the ones who are gassing their own people, and it is my personal view that any effort to take even an iota of blame away from the people truly responsible does not further the cause that we seek to make and bring light to today.”
Both senators said the attack shows why the United States needs to articulate a clear policy that Assad can’t remain in power, both because of U.S. values for human rights and because of national security concerns of causing Syrians to radicalize to fight Assad.
“We need action,” Cardin said. “To me, it starts with a clear U.S. policy that president Assad has no legitimacy as the leader of Syria and no future as the leader of Syria. And that should be made very clear by the pronouncements of our administration.”