The Latest: Trump’s national security team meets on Syria

Donald Trump
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s response to Syria’s suspected chemical attack on civilians (all times local):

4:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s national security team has met to discuss the U.S. response to the Syrian government’s apparent use of chemical weapons on its own people.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Vice President Mike Pence chaired the meeting Wednesday afternoon.

She says there have been no decisions yet on whether to strike Syria despite the president’s tweet Wednesday morning threatening to fire “nice and new and ‘smart!'” missiles.

Sanders says the U.S. is confident in laying blame on the Syrian government and its Russian allies for Saturday’s deadly attack in Douma. Opposition activists and rescuers say at least 40 people were killed.

Sanders says, “The president holds Syria and Russia responsible for this chemical weapons attack.”

A Kremlin spokesman has said claims of a chemical weapons attack were fabricated.

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2:50 p.m.

A senior Russian lawmaker says President Donald Trump’s tweet warning of an imminent missile strike on Syria reflects a dangerously light-minded approach to a critical situation.

Trump said Wednesday that missiles “will be coming” in response to Syria’s suspected chemical attack, adding “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'”

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, said it’s “really scary to think what kind of people control the largest military arsenal the planet has ever seen.”

Earlier, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier said in televised remarks that “we don’t participate in Twitter diplomacy,” adding that “it’s important not to make any steps that could further destabilize the already fragile situation.”

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11:45 a.m.

The Kremlin spokesman has commented on President Donald Trump’s tweet warning of an imminent missile strike on Syria by saying that Moscow doesn’t engage in Twitter diplomacy.

Trump said Wednesday that missiles “will be coming” in response to Syria’s suspected chemical attack, adding “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'”

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in televised remarks that “we don’t participate in Twitter diplomacy.” He added that “we support serious approaches and keep thinking that it’s important not to make any steps that could further destabilize the already fragile situation.”

He says claims of a chemical attack were fabricated and “can’t serve as a pretext for any forceful actions.”

Earlier, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry responded to Trump on Facebook, saying missiles would destroy “all evidence” of the attack. Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted that “missiles must fly towards terrorists, not a legitimate government that has been fighting international terrorism in its territory for several years.”

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7:10 a.m.

After Russia warned the United States against military strikes in Syria, President Donald Trump says missiles “will be coming.”

Trump says on Twitter Wednesday: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'” He adds: “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime, saying it could trigger a direct military clash.

Trump didn’t say whether he was referring to a U.S. military strike. But he has threatened military action in response to Syria’s suspected chemical attack, which activists and rescuers say killed at least 40 people. The Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied that such an attack ever happened.

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12:05 a.m.

Officials of the Trump administration have been discussing with officials of France and Britain a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack.

U.S. officials tell The Associated Press that the allies have weighed launching a military strike as early as the end of this week.

The White House says President Donald Trump has decided not to attend a summit in South America this week to remain in the U.S. to manage the crisis. In the past Trump has vowed to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Trump has suggested that he has little doubt that Syrian government forces are to blame for what he says was a chemical attack, but neither he nor other administration officials have produced hard evidence. Syria denies the accusation.

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