Local Rep. Juan Vargas speaks about classified Syria briefing

SAN DIEGO - Local Rep. Juan Vargas is heading home to San Diego after attending a classified meeting at the White House on Sunday morning about the United States' next steps with Syria.

It has been a busy 24 hours for Vargas, but he says those hours have been productive. He spoke with 10News on Saturday about President Obama's plan for Syria before getting on a plane for Washington, D.C. for a classified meeting and is already headed home.

"It was interesting," he said during a phone interview with 10News. "This classified hearing was open to all members of Congress and the Senate and a number of senators. It was the first time I have ever participated both with Senate and Congress."

Vargas told 10News that President Obama was not himself present during the classified briefing but that a number of representatives from the White House and the Pentagon were there and they were forthcoming with their answers about why the U.S. should intervene, even when Vargas questioned whether the president should have made his plans for the U.S. intervention public.

"I did have some concerns about that obviously, when you are telegraphing to the other side that you are probably going to strike, they can counter or do other things, but after listening to the Pentagon's explanation of why they don't think that's an issue, I am convinced that it's not an issue," he said.

Vargas said he has no doubts in his mind after the briefing that innocent women and children were victims in last month's chemical attack in Syria.

"The classified briefing for me and the information that was available to me, which I did read, answers this question beyond a reasonable doubt absolutely … that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on their own people. There's no doubt about that," he said. "Our response is the only issue but for me, being able to read classified information and being able to ask questions … I do not have a doubt whatsoever that unfortunately, these children were gassed. Chemical weapons were used to kill innocent civilians."

Vargas issued the following statement late Sunday:

“After reviewing the classified assessments of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, I am appalled that the Assad regime used sarin gas to brutally kill innocent civilians.  I am particularly disturbed by the estimated 426 children who died mercilessly from symptoms related to chemical gas exposure.  I am now prepared, after careful consideration of these classified documents, to support President Obama’s request to use limited and targeted strikes to deter the future use of chemical weapons.”

10News asked Vargas if he is headed back to Washington this week. He said no. The Senate will meet twice this week.

Congress is not scheduled to be back in Washington until next Monday.

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