President Donald Trump will respond to the suspected weekend chemical attack in Syria in two ways, both overt and behind the scenes, but he won't be seeking a change in Syria President Bashar Assad's regime, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to the president, said Tuesday.
"It's not about regime change," Gorka, now a Fox News security strategist, told "Fox and Friends." "It's about sending a message and hurting the elite that is being so evil in that country."
During a meeting Monday evening in the Cabinet Room at the White House, the president said he'll respond "forcefully" to Saturday's suspected attack on rebel-held Douma, east of Damascus, which ended in the deaths of an estimated 40 people, including women and children.
Trump made his remarks while meeting with his top military leaders, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Officials are still trying to determine whether Assad's government was behind the incident.
"There is probably going to be some overt response, a full-throated response that sends a clear message to Assad and his sponsors," said Gorka. "This isn't just about Damascus. It's about [Russian President Vladimir] Putin in Moscow and Iran and China that we [will] not countenance the use of chemical weapons like this, especially against women and children."
Behind the scenes, Gorka predicted there will be covert action, including in the "cyber domain and elsewhere to put the pressure on the regime."
However, Gorka said the president is "not an interventionist, but it is in all civilized nations' interest to make sure these weapons are not used. They have been illegal for almost a century. Taboos cannot be broken without consequences being paid by those who break them."
Show co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Gorka if that means he's looking for the government to "take out every military base in Syria," or to stage an attack against Assad and his family.
"We have legislation on the books that does not permit a president to assassinate another head of state," said Gorka. "We have had that on the books since the 1970s. It's about that. We are not about regime change."
However, he said the Trump administration is not going to say exactly what action it plans to take, because "that's how they prepare against you. [Bill] Clinton did it in Bosnia. He said 'I'm not going to use ground troops.' It was insane. You don't do that in a chess game, Brian. You don't do it in warfare or international relations. It's bad strategy."
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