White House reveals president's improvised situation room inside Mar-a-Lago minutes after Tomahawk missiles struck Syrian airfield

President Donald Trump was briefed by his national security team Thursday on the strike in Syria at a secure location in Mar-a-Lago, the White House revealed in a picture on Friday.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer shared a photo on Twitter of Trump positioned at a table, and surrounded by advisers and cabinet members in the improvised situation room. A sign on the door says 'quiet area' and the team sat on the same chairs found at the resort's dining areas.

They included Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, economic adviser Gary Cohn and chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner were also in the room as Trump received his briefing.

The photograph was taken at 9.15pm eastern time, roughly 45 minutes after the missiles landed. The strikes were announced at 9.20pm.

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joseph Dunford joined remotely, Spicer said.

Trump's key personnel.
Trump's key personnel.

Trump is currently at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, entertaining Chinese President Xi Jinping and his delegation.

He attended meetings today with Xi today as they concluded their summit. 'We have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China,' Trump told reporters just before 11:30 am in his first appearance of the day.

The White House official did not say who photographed Trump, only that it was taken inside a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, at Mar-a-Lago, at approximately 9:15pm on Thursday.

Spicer's tweet said Trump was receiving a 'briefing on #syria military strike fr Nat Security team, inc @vp , SECDEF, CJCS via secure VTC' at the time.


Secure VTC refers to an encryption service that allows the president to securely engage in classified communications on video. VTC stands for video tele-conferencing. The photo was edited, the White House says, to mask sensitive documents.

The image is unprecedented in showing the video conference technology used inside a SCIF, a secure compartmentalised information facility. Until now images have only existed of phones being used inside the secure facilities. The devices around the outside of the table appear to be speaker phones. Those in the centre are likely to be used to encrypt the voice communications.

Trump unleashed his Tomahawk barrage on one of Bashar al-Assad's key bases from the sea to avoid upsetting allies and using the huge US military arsenal built up off the coast of Syria.

In response Moscow has already pledged to strengthen Assad's air defenses, will stop sharing intelligence with Washington and has diverted its main Black Sea fleet warship The Admiral Grigorovich to the Syrian port of Tartus. It is currently in the Bosphorus and will enter the Mediterranean later today.

Trump's briefing came a half hour before he addressed the United States - and the world - from Mar-a-Lago and two hours after the missiles were launched.

He said Assad "choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children" and that "even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered".

"Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children," he said.

"It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.

"No child of God should ever suffer such horror."

He added: 'Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.'

Prior to the speech, Trump had entertained his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and their wives at a formal dinner.

Less than two hours after the dinner began, the US military fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Assad controlled al-Shayrat military airfield near Homs at 7:40pm EDT. The bombs began hitting their targets at 8:30 pm, killing at least five and injuring many more.

The Pentagon released dramatic footage of one of its missile launches from USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, targeting the Syrian base.

Trump was first briefed on Assad's poison-gas attack at his daily intelligence briefing on Tuesday morning, the White House says. He asked then for more information that he then received at an 8pm meeting on Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning Trump was briefed again. He met with his national security team once more on Wednesday afternoon, after he declared at a Rose Garden press conference that his position on Assad was changing.

As he flew to Florida on Air Force One Thursday afternoon, he heard from his team again, at 1:30 pm EDT. After that briefing Trump came to the press cabin and told reporters that "something should happen" to Assad after what he did.

The president's plane landed in Palm Beach just before 3pm. At 4pm, he OK'd a strike on Assad's army, the White House said. Bombs were set off during the dinner with Xi and started exploding as the affair was wrapping up.

Trump received an update this morning, his spokesman said, and was due for another once Xi departed.

Back in Washington, the vice president was doing Trump's bidding on Capitol Hill, where a debate had erupted over whether the new president had the authority to take the military action that was not authorized by Congress.

Pence, a former congressman, has largely served as a tether between the White House and the Republicans with offices in the Capitol, and the responsibility fell on him Thursday to inform legislators about the bombs.

Their phones began to ring as the missiles came crashing down. Foreign leaders were alerted by the secretaries of state and defense and Trump's National Security advisor at same time.

The strikes have so far won broad international support from American allies. Israel's prime minister welcomed the US attack saying he "fully supports" President Trump's decision. The country has a land border with Syria.

Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that "in both word and action" Trump "sent a strong and clear message' that 'the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated."

Britain has also backed the US missile strike, describing it as an "appropriate response", as the government offered its support to Trump's targeted assault, as well.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The UK Government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said Syrian president Assad bore "sole responsibility" for the US strike on a regime airbase.

In a joint statement on Friday, they said: "After the chemical weapons massacre of April 4 on Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria, a military installation of the Syrian regime was destroyed by a US air strike last night. President Assad bears sole responsibility for this development."

In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed the strike was the correct response to the shocking war crime.

"The Australian Government strongly supports the swift and just response of the United States," Turnbull said on Friday. 'This was a proportionate response by the United States.

It is not designed to overthrow the Assad regime.

"But we are not at war with the Assad regime and United States have made it clear that they are not seeking to overthrow the Assad regime."

Bolivia's, on the other hand, accused the US of acting as the judge, jury and prosecutor in Syria.

"The United States not only unilaterally attacked, but while we were discussing here and demanding the need for an independent investigation an impartial investigation, complete investigation into the attacks, the United States has become to that investigator, has become the prosecutor, has become the judge, has become the jury," UN Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenti Soliz said.

Soliz held up a picture of George W. Bush's Secretary of State Colin Powell and reminded Security Council members on Friday of that administration's unfounded claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

The reaction from Assad ally Russia has been furious. President Vladimir Putin diverted a warship to protect the Syrian coast and vowed to bolster the Syrian dictator's missile defenses against further US strikes as fears grew the crisis could topple into war between Russia and the West.

The Russian president immediately sent his Admiral Grigorovich frigate - armed with cruise missiles and a self-defense system - from the Black Sea to dock in Syria later Friday.

It will pass through the east Mediterranean waters where the USS Ross and USS Porter fired the 59 Tomahawk missiles that pounded Assad's al-Shayrat military airfield near Homs in the early hours of Friday.

Putin on Friday morning denounced the strike as an "act of aggression against a UN member" and suspended a deal to avoid mid-air clashes with American fighter jets over the war-torn country.

The Kremlin's propaganda machine clicked into gear, claiming the strikes had "extremely low" military effectiveness and that just 23 of 59 cruise missiles reached the air base, destroying six Syrian jets but leaving the runway intact.

Trump's spokesman said Friday that all of the missiles hit their targets.

Syrian Army officials called the US airstrike a act of "blatant aggression", saying it had made America 'a partner' of ISIS, the ex-Nusra Front and other 'terrorist organisations".

The US used a special military-to-military hotline to warn Russia it was launching an airstrike on a Syrian air base about 30 minutes in advance. The Trump administration did not ask Moscow for permission. It informed them the strike per an existing de-conflict agreement.

It is likely Russia alerted the Syrians about the incoming strikes, but this has not been confirmed.

Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense committee in the Russian Federation Council, told state news agency RIA that the US strikes 'may undermine the efforts in the fight against terrorism in Syria.'

"Russia will demand an urgent UN Security Council meeting after the US airstrike on Syrian aviation base. This is an act of aggression against a UN member."

Russia's foreign minister says no Russian servicemen have been hurt in the bombing raid. Its security council said it regretted the 'harm' done to relations between Washington and Moscow.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had wagged the finger in Russia's face on Thursday night for its role in the chemical weapons attack.

Russia had been tasked by the international community with overseeing the destruction of the weapons in 2013.

"Clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013. So either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement," Tillerson said, unprompted.

The American diplomat is supposed to meet with Putin in Russia next week for talks that were already expected to be tough.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned Russia on Friday that the United States 'is prepared to do more' to keep Assad from massacring civilians as she responded to the country's complaints at the UN Security Council convergence.

"The joint investigative mechanism has found beyond any doubt that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its own people multiple times," Haley said. "Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he could get away with it because he knew Russia had his back. That changed last night."

Russia "bears considerable responsibility" for chemical weapons assault, she said, arguing that "every time Assad has crossed the line of human decency, Russia has stood beside him."

Britain's ambassador to the UN was equally hard on the Kremlin, saying at Friday's meeting that "Russia has given Assad everything he could dream of."

"Without Russia's seven vetoes in the Security Council, defying the views of other members of this council, Assad would now have faced sanctions and justice," UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said, according to CNN." Russia sits here today humiliated by its failure to bring to heel a puppet dictator, entirely propped up by Russia itself and Hezbollah and Iran."

A Pentagon official told DailyMail.com that the president 'is dead-set against letting Assad labor under the illusion that the Syrian army can murder innocent people with impunity."

"We've laid down a marker. No more chemical weapons attacks, period. There will be consequences. Our president is showing his American conscience, and if anyone provokes him they will regret it."

The official said the Trump administration hopes Assad 'will change his ways.'

The longtime Pentagon veteran said he was in the chain of command that led to Thursday night's attacks, but couldn't predict what might come next.

"We've got a new president," he said. "And that means none of our adversaries knows how he will react to any given situation. That's a huge advantage that Assad may not have considered."

In a different sequence after day break, the Syrian TV station al-Ikhbariyah showed another short clip of smoke billowing in the distance, hovering over a raging fire, the tip of which emerges and a forest of trees is in the foreground.

Anti-Assad Syrians have been celebrating the bombing after the horrific chemical weapons attack.

Some said they had been hugging people in the street and crying after news that the Americans had intervened emerged.

One wrote on Facebook: "I've worked my tail off for six damn years to see this moment.

You have no idea how cathartic it is for me. I've been hugging everyone.

"If you run into me now chances are I'll hug you and cry. This is the first time in almost half a century that the Assad regime has been held accountable for a crime they
committed. Only Syrians will fully understand what this means. I'm choking back tears."

Another said: "For those of us who have campaigned tirelessly for humanitarian intervention for 6 years today is a surreal and momentous day.

"I can't even truly express how I feel, the devastating war is still years from ending, but for a brief few moments Syrians got to taste what justice feels like, even if that is only a smokescreen, the jubilation I am witnessing is very real."

Talal Barazi, the governor of Homs province, didn't say how many were killed in the early Friday attack but confirmed there had been deaths and injuries in the bombing.

He said a fire raged in the air base in Homs for over an hour following the barrage of missiles and that the evacuation effort was continuing early on Friday morning.

The base is in Homs province - the Syrian government's most active launching pad for airstrikes on terrorist and rebel groups in central and northern Syria.

WHO SUPPORTS WHO IN THE BATTLE FOR SYRIA?

PRO ASSAD

Russia - Gives military support, condemns the US airstrikes and suspends deal not to clash mid-air
Iran - Close strategic allies with Syria and has provided significant support including $8.69billion
North Korea - UN probe found that North Korea was supplying arms to Syria
Iraq - The Iraqi Government provided financial support and transported supplies
Algeria - Rumours suggest Algerian military aircraft is regularly landing in Syria
Venezuela - The South American country has shipped tens of millions of dollars worth of diesel to Syria
Lebanon - Police arrested family after they protested about the Syrian Government
Belarus - President Alexander Lukashenko supported Moscow's involvement and offered air strike
Lebanese Hezbollah Party - Involvement has been substantial and has deployed troops since 2012.

ANTI ASSAD

US - President Donald Trump launches first airstrikes since six-year civil war started
UK - Supports US cruise airstrikes as Theresa May said chemical attack was 'despicable'
France/Germany - Both of the countries today said Assad bears 'sole responsibility' for US strike
Turkey - Opposed to Assad but objects to Syrian rebels and wants control of Kurdish area
Canada - Canada gave more than $4.97million to the Syrian opposition in 2013
Saudi Arabia - The Middle East country is the main group to finance the rebels and has provided a large amount of weapons
Israel - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first to praise the US's retaliatory attack, saying he 'fully supports' Donald Trump's decision to launch the cruise missile attacks
Qatar - It was reported Qatar gave the Syrian rebels $2.98 billion at the start of the civil war in 2011.

- Daily Mail

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