September 20, 2021

Trump defends Syria move: ‘It’s time to come back home’ | TheHill

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House says Turkey will soon launch Syria operation Trump associates pressured Ukraine over gas firm in order to benefit allies: report Trump praises Woodward, slams other journalists over ‘Face the Nation’ segment MORE on Monday dug in on his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria as Turkey prepares an operation in the region, while members of his own party lined up to criticize the move.

Speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Trump said he has “great respect” for the prominent Republicans who are urging him to reconsider his strategy, but that “it’s time to come back home.”

“We’ve been there for many, many, many years beyond what we were supposed to be. Not fighting. Just there. Just there. And it’s time to come back home,” Trump said.

“But I can understand the other side of it,” he continued. “But if you go by the other side, that means we should never, ever come home.”

The president lamented that the most difficult aspect of his job is writing letters to the families of soldiers killed overseas. He described writing to families of soldiers killed by mines or snipers, calling it “devastating.”

“We’re willing to do what we have to do, but there has to be an endgame,” he said. “And if you stay, it’s going to be the same thing. Eventually you’re going to have to leave.”

The White House announced late Sunday that Turkey will soon be launching a military operation in northern Syria and that U.S. troops will no longer be “in the immediate area” when it happens. The U.S. had more than 1,000 troops deployed in northern Syria, working closely with Kurdish-led forces that Turkey considers terrorists.

Asked Monday if he consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the decision, Trump claimed that he had.

“I consulted with everybody,” he said. “I always consult with everybody.” 

But the Pentagon issued a statement Monday indicating it did not approve of any Turkish operation, while Republican lawmakers appeared to have been left in the dark and lined up to criticize the strategy.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham vows to publicly question whistleblowers if Trump is impeached Key Republicans split with Trump on Biden investigation push GOP searches for impeachment boogeyman MORE (R-S.C.) called it a “disaster in the making” and promised a Senate resolution opposing it. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySE Cupp: How much longer will allies excuse Trump’s behavior? Trump: ‘Democrats are lucky that they don’t have any Mitt Romney types’ Key Republicans split with Trump on Biden investigation push MORE (R-Utah) described the move as a “betrayal.” Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio: Trump asking China to launch Biden investigation not ‘a real request’ Hillicon Valley: Clapper praises whistleblower complaint | Senators urge social media giants to take action against ‘deepfakes’ | Tim Cook asks Supreme Court to protect DACA | Harris pushes Twitter to suspend Trump Senators urge social media companies to take action against ‘deepfake’ videos MORE (R-Fla.) lamented the move as a “grave mistake,” and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPressley joins hundreds of activists calling for Kavanaugh impeachment: ‘I believe in the power of us’ Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later Key Republicans split with Trump on Biden investigation push MORE (R-Maine) called it “terribly unwise.”

Some senators publicly urged him to reverse course, while Graham prepared a resolution to voice the Senate’s disapproval.

Trump was asked Monday afternoon about the barrage of criticism that rolled in throughout the day from the likes of Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey Republicans split with Trump on Biden investigation push GOP searches for impeachment boogeyman Overnight Defense: House Dems subpoena White House for Ukraine documents | Pence pulled into inquiry | GOP senator says he confronted Trump over Ukraine aid | Iran hackers target 2020 campaign MORE (R-Ky.) and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyEx-GOP lawmaker sues South Carolina Republican Party for canceling 2020 primary Juan Williams: Why does Trump fear GOP voters? Can Carl DeMaio save the California GOP? MORE, all of whom argued a U.S. retreat could harm relationships with allies and lay the foundation for a resurgence of ISIS.

He replied that “many people” agree with his viewpoint strongly. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul: ‘We deserve to know’ identity of Trump whistleblower Senate passes stopgap spending bill, sending it to Trump Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Furor over White House readout of Ukraine call | Dems seize on memo in impeachment push | Senate votes to end Trump emergency | Congress gets briefing on Iran MORE (R-Ky.) has been among his most vocal cheerleaders, though most Republicans have called on Trump to rethink the move.

“I respect both opinions,” he said. “The problem with the other opinion is when do we leave? When do we leave? We’re going to stay there forever?”

Asked about the Kurdish fighters, thousands of whom have died fighting alongside U.S. forces in the region and the remainder of whom would be vulnerable without U.S. support, Trump described them as a “natural enemy” of Turkey before arguing against prolonged American involvement.

Trump had doubled down and defended his strategy throughout the day. In tweets and comments in the Roosevelt Room he chiefly argued that he campaigned on a pledge to end U.S. involvement in “endless wars” and that American forces should not serve as a global police force.

He insisted that, if needed, he can act to cripple the Turkish economy or that the U.S. forces can return to the area, though he has not specified under what conditions those things would happen.

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Brett Samuels
The Hill

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