Defense Sec Mattis wanted to get Congress' approval for Syria strikes but was overruled by Trump's desire to back up his tweets
Donald Trump speaks to Jim Mattis (Pentagon)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attempted to get President Donald Trump to wait for congressional approval to strike Syria last Friday — but was overruled by the president's desire to issue a "rapid and dramatic response" to the alleged chemical attacks in the country.


According to military and White House sources that spoke to The New York Times on background, Trump wanted to appear to back up his escalating series of tweets about the chemical attacks purportedly ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Mattis urged patience. The resulting compromise was the limited strike on three targets that lasted for a few minutes.

Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's now-fired national security adviser, formerly served as a "buffer" between the defense secretary and the president because he would often defer to Mattis, a four-star general. Now that McMaster has been replaced with neo-conservative pundit and Bush-era adviser John Bolton, that buffer is no more, and some in the foreign policy world are already concerned that Mattis is "ceding strategic territory to Iran and Russia in Syria," the Times reported.

Mattis, the report noted, is alone among Trump's cabinet in his ability to "maintain a cordial relationship with the president even while reining him in."