Interviews

Rep. Ron DeSantis seeks answers on Obama's actions in Syria

Florida congressman wants information about the previous administration's efforts to rid Syria of Chemical weapons

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," April 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

TRISH REGAN, GUEST HOST: A lawmaker demanding answers today as to what the Obama administration knew and didn't know about chemical weapons in Syria.

Keep in mind, this is what members of the administration, Obama administration, were saying back then. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: With respect to Syria, we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.

JOSH EARNEST, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The declared chemical weapons stockpile that Assad previously denied existed has now been acknowledged, rounded up, removed from the country and destroyed, precisely because of the work of this administration and our successful efforts to work with the Russians to accomplish that goal.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We were able to find a solution that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REGAN: All right, but now that we saw another chemical attack in Syria, Florida Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis wants some answers. He just sent off a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson, as he tries to get to the bottom of it.

And he joins me now.

Congressman, good to have you here.

I think a lot of us are wondering, they told us they got rid of all these chemical weapons. And yet we saw all those people, including children, die in that horrible chemical attack. Did they think they had gotten rid of them?

REP. RON DESANTIS, R-FLORIDA: Well, I think that's what we're going to find out.

Actually, there's been evidence that has come out since this chemical attack where you have some former Obama administration officials that said, well, actually we always knew all along that we didn't get all the chemical weapons.

And I think the montage that you played shows that that was not the message that they were giving to the American people. They were telling the American people that these weapons had been taken care of. So, we want to find out, did they actually know that there were still some chemical weapons there, when did they know that, and then why didn't they tell Congress and the American people?

And I think the problem with it is, this flew -- this came from Obama's red line, where he drew the line in the sand. Assad then used the weapons that Obama said he couldn't use. But then the president did not act against Assad. He kind of hemmed and hawed.

They eventually struck this deal. And so the Obama administration had always said, well, look, people criticized the president for not doing the red line. We got the weapons. That's even better than striking Assad.

(CROSSTALK)

DESANTIS: Well, why were they making that narrative? Was it because to kind of cover politically for what the president's lack of red line enforcement wrought?

REGAN: I guess the big question then is, did they know that they hadn't gotten them all? And if so, why would they have sold the American public some other bill of goods?

That said, I will just ask, how long does it take to make these things? Is it possible that they could have gotten rid of them, and then he went out and was able to make these new ones? Or is that just inconceivable? Do you know the answer to that?

DESANTIS: No.

No, I think that is possible. It's not the way the deal was supposed to operate, obviously. But it's possible. But it seems to me less likely, given the acknowledgement that we have seen from some of these former Obama officials, saying they knew that there were still some weapons there all along.

So, we want to get to the bottom of it. We want to know what was known and what was the Trump administration told about this, because obviously this is a problem that they inherited.

We also, don't forget, have troops in Syria, small numbers, not necessarily in Assad's sphere of influence. But I can tell you, when I served in Iraq, we all had to take the chemical suits, because we didn't know what was over there.

So, was that warning given to the Defense Department about, hey, we actually think there may be chemical weapons over there after all? So, these are just things we need the answers to. And I think the American people deserve them.

REGAN: Secretary -- or, rather, Susan Rice in all of this as well does not necessarily perhaps have the best track record, given what happened in Benghazi.

Does that come into your line of thought at all as you ask these questions?

DESANTIS: Absolutely.

She said three days on NPR before Obama left office this past January saying what a great thing this was. We got all of the chemical weapons is what she said.

And we know that is not true. The question is, did they know that it wasn't true, and did they have information that suggested their deal wasn't as successful as they were telling the public it was?

REGAN: Lots of questions. Lots of questions.

Thank you so much. Good to have you here, Congressman.

DESANTIS: Thank you.

END

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