Trump Is Scaring the Hell Out of His Advisers Right Now

New reports shed light on the president’s chaotic Syria policy and beyond.

Chris Kleponis/ZUMA

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Several reports this week paint an increasingly chaotic portrait for President Donald Trump’s Syria strategy, with those close to the commander-in-chief voicing concerns over his sudden demands to immediately withdraw US troops from the country. Trump’s national security team and military leaders have reportedly persuaded him—for now—to allow them five to six months to complete a withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria, though they warned the president that such an approach would still come with “significant risks and downsides, including the likelihood that Iran and Russia would take advantage of a US vacuum,” according to the Associated Press.

In a remarkable story Friday, the AP reported Trump is prohibiting members of his national security team from referring to this five-to-six-month timetable as “timeline,” despite the fact that the president “indicated that he did not want to hear in October that the military had been unable to fully defeat the Islamic State and had to remain in Syria for longer.” Trump has long criticized former President Barack Obama for, in Trump’s view, unwisely telegraphing US military strategies.

The reports come just days after Trump announced that “it’s time” to get out of Syria. The unscripted remarks alarmed both administration officials and international leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home,” he said. “I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have, as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East the last seven years. We get nothing out of it, nothing.”

Another report, published Thursday by the Washington Post, revealed a startling moment during a military meeting when a CIA official showed Trump a recording of a drone operation in Syria, in which US forces had held off on striking a target until he had moved away from a house where family members were likely inside.

“Why did you wait?” Trump asked, appearing unenthused. It was a question that recalled one of Trump’s more inflammatory suggestions during the presidential campaign—his belief that to successfully eradicate ISIS’s presence, US forces would need to “take out their families.”  He said in December 2015: “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

The alarming reports add to anxiety in the White House, where, Axios’ Mike Allen writes, “Checks are being ignored or have been eliminated, and critics purged as the president is filling time by watching Fox, and by eating dinner with people who feed his ego and conspiracy theories, and who drink in his rants.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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