US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has described last month’s massive missile strike in Syria as “after-dinner entertainment” for guests dining at President Donald Trump’s Florida mansion.
Speaking at an economic conference in California on Monday, Ross recalled the scene at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, where President Trump interrupted dessert to inform visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US military had just attacked a Syrian airfield.
“Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria,” the cabinet member said Monday, according to Variety.
The magazine reported that Ross’ reflection of the event drew laughter from the audience at the Milken Institute Global Conference.
“It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment. The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment,” Ross said.
Trump authorized the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs, which US officials claimed was the origin of a suspected chemical attack in Idlib province.
The Syrian government has strongly denied responsibility for the gas attack, which killed more than 80 people, and there is no evidence that it was behind the assault.
Trump himself had previously bragged about how he broke the news of the missile attack to his Chinese counterpart.
“I was sitting at the table, we had finished dinner,” he told Fox Business in an interview last month. “We’re now having dessert—and we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen—and President Xi was enjoying it.”
The decision to strike Syria was an abrupt change of course for Trump, who had long signaled that his policy was to defeat the Daesh terrorist group rather than to overthrow the Assad government.
Administration officials stepped up the rhetoric against Damascus following the missile attack, saying the conflict in Syria would not be resolved with President Bashar al-Assad in power.