According to internal Pentagon emails the White House did not coordinate or notify the Defense Department officials before it issued a statement last year threatening that the Syrian government would “pay a heavy price” if it used chemical weapons again.
“We woke up to the statement. [White House] did not coordinate with us or [Joint Chiefs of Staff] or [State Department] from what I can tell,” top Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told Kevin Sweeney, chief of staff to Defense Secretary James Mattis, in an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The news outlet wrote that the email was sent immediately after the White House’s statement on June 26, 2017.
The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the watchdog group Democracy Forward and shared with BuzzFeed.
Mattis and White were on a plane to Germany to attend a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan when the White House released the statement.
“I have nothing,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters in an email. “I suppose we send queries back to the White House.”
“Was there any coordinated traffic on this?” a Joint Chiefs of Staff employee asked in an email to White and Davis. “This is the first I’m seeing about it. Any [talking points] would be appreciated. I’m getting calls from folks in DC.”
“Surprised us all,” Davis replied.
The emails also show that White House officials together with Pentagon officials later lied to the press and public on the coordination between the two buildings.
“DOD knew about the White House statement and provided edits in advance of its release. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders the same day said that “the military chain of command was also fully aware of the statement as it was being prepared and later released.”
The following day, White emailed Pentagon press officers that the Syria statement was “coordinated between the principals.”
“The WH gets to do whatever it wants when it wants how it wants,” she said in the email.