Congressional leaders said they were told hours before President Donald Trump’s airstrikes in Syria became public Thursday night that the administration intends no further air attacks on the country, but was “reserving their options.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said he received a call from the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, “not long after the missiles were on their way.”
Schiff said on MSNBC that he was told that “close to 70 missiles were fired from ships,” and “the target was the airfield where it is believed the chemical weapons attack originated.” The strikes were retaliation for a chemical attack this week that killed at least 70 civilians that the U.S. and other countries blame on the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad.
Schiff said Coats also told him “it is, at the present, not the intention to have more than this single strike.”
“Of course, the administration is reserving their options depending on whether the regime responds against our troops or takes any other actions against our soldiers or our allies,” Schiff added.
Other top lawmakers also said they’d been told the strikes are intended to be a single event, and not the start of protracted U.S. military engagement in Syria.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the White House “indicated that this was a measured response to the Syrian nerve gas atrocity.”
“Any further action will require close scrutiny by Congress,” Durbin said in a statement, “and any escalation beyond airstrikes or missile strikes will require engaging the American people in that decision.”
Not all government leaders were briefed ahead of time about the strikes. National Security Council staffers were largely kept in the dark, according to a White House staff member who spoke to The Huffington Post. American diplomats were also out of the loop, according to BuzzFeed News.
There were conflicting reports Thursday night about whether the Trump administration had briefed Russian officials in advance of the strike. Russia is closely allied with Assad, and has provided him with weapons and financing for much of the country’s six-year civil war.
In a statement late Thursday night, Trump said “it is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” He called on “all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”