WASHINGTON — White House officials are denying news reports that President Donald Trump ignored his defense secretary’s requests to get congressional approval before ordering airstrikes against Syrian military targets, brushing aside insinuations of a possible rift between the two men.

A day earlier, the New York Times reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had urged the commander in chief to get lawmakers’ approval before the April 13 military action, but his requests were ignored.

In a statement to reporters on Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called that “categorically false.” She said the military moves were “appropriately ordered (by Trump) under his constitutional authorities.”

Earlier in the day, Mattis told reporters that he had “no idea where that story came from” and added “I found nothing in it that I could recall from my own last week’s activities.”

The strikes — conducted by U.S., French and British military forces — hit three Syrian government targets in response to a chemical weapons attack against the town of Douma earlier in the month.

Reaction to the move has been mixed on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers in support calling it an important response to military atrocities and critics calling it an overreach of executive powers since Congress has not authorized any military action against Syria.

At a press conference Friday shortly after the airstrikes, Mattis said in response to questions about the need for congressional approval that “we believe the president has every reason to defend vital American interests, and that is what he did here tonight under that authority.”

Trump in recent weeks has feuded with several of his Cabinet members, including his firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

But Mattis remains among the most popular figures in the Trump administration, and has worked over the last year to dismiss any reports of conflict between the Pentagon and White House. In public events, Trump frequently refers to the retired Marine as “General Mattis” and has praised him for his leadership with the military.

Congress is expected to debate a new military force authorization proposal next week.

Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp contributed to this story.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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