Newly-uncovered emails illustrate that not only was the Pentagon entirely unaware that President Donald Trump appeared to draw a new “red line” in Syria last summer, but that then-deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied about it.
The emails, acquired by BuzzFeed News through a Freedom of Information Act request applied for by the Democracy Forward watchdog group, confirm initial media speculation from late June 2017 that the Pentagon was left in the dark about the president’s threats to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his alleged chemical weapons use on his own people.
“I have nothing,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesman, told reporters via email in the newly-released documents. “I suppose we send queries back to the White House,” he told Pentagon press officers in another.
A day after speculation raged about the disconnect between the White House and the Pentagon, Dana White, the spokesperson for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, emailed a Breitbart reporter claiming that the reports were the source of “anonymous leaks.”
“DOD knew about the White House statement and provided edits in advance of its release,” White’s email to Breitbart read. “Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false or misinformed.”
The site immediately ran a story touting its scoop, BuzzFeed noted, and soon after, Sanders told reporters that “the military chain of command was also fully aware of the statement as it was being prepared and later released.”
Democracy Forward told BuzzFeed that the emails predating White and Sanders’ statements offer the impression that they were lying about the broken channels of communication being “leaks.”
“These new documents reveal what the administration has actively denied all along: the White House failed to consult military officials before issuing a statement on a potential Syrian chemical attack last year,” Democracy Forward director Anne Harkavy said. “Worse yet, administration officials lied when questioned by reporters. How can we trust an administration that lies about the potential use of chemical weapons?”