US President Donald Trump will not travel on a planned trip to attend the Summit of the Americas in Peru, the White House announced on Tuesday, and instead will stay in Washington to deliberate on possible military action in Syria. The crisis, precipitated by allegations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime perpetrated a chemical attack, comes as Trump does rhetorical battle with a US Justice Department that in recent days seized documents from his personal lawyer.
“At the president’s request, the vice-president will travel in his stead,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “The president will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.”
On Monday, the US president suggested the Assad regime was likely responsible for what he described on Twitter as a “MINDLESS chemical attack,” and threw in a rare, maybe even unprecedented, criticism by name of Russian President Vladimir Putin:
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
Meanwhile, Assad and Russia are calling for an international inspection of the alleged chemical attack, which has been reported across Western media outlets with graphic images of child casualties. At least 60 people were killed, and more than 1,000 injured, according to reports.
Russia and the Syrian government categorically denied that any such attack took place.
Reuters said that the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had begun efforts to confirm the events, but it is unclear whether it would be able to gain access to the reported location, which is surrounded by government forces.
The crisis comes as an investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign metastasizes to envelop his personal lawyer, whose office and hotel room were raided by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday. Trump struck a defiant chord on Tuesday morning:
A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018