No, Hillary Clinton Was Not ‘Gone’ When Obama Drew ‘Red Line’ on Syria

Secretary Clinton with President Obama
Secretary Clinton with President Obama

During Sunday night’s presidential debate, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton denied that she was in office as Secretary of State when President Barack Obama refused to punish Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against civilians after calling chemical weapons use a “red line” which could not be crossed.

“They had a chance to do something with Syria, and that was the line,” Republican nominee Donald Trump said of his Democratic rival and the administration in which she worked. “You were there as Secretary of State with the so-called ‘line in the sand.’”

“No, I wasn’t, I was gone,” Clinton replied.

Fact-Check: MOSTLY FALSE

President Obama delivered his famous “red line” speech – in which he described the use of chemical weapons against civilians by Assad as a “red line” that Assad could not cross without suffering serious international consequences – in August 2012.

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” President Obama said at the time.

Hillary Clinton served President Obama as Secretary of State from January 21, 2009 to February 1, 2013, according to the State Department. She was not in office when Assad used chemical weapons yet again in 2015, violating international law. The White House did not respond to Assad with any direct military retaliation. 

Assad was most recently accused of using chemical weapons against civilians in Aleppo in September 2016. He remains dictator of Syria after “winning” an election in 2014.

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