By Jordain Carney and Rebecca Kheel
President Trump poured fuel on the fire in his fight with Congress over Syria, lashing out at Democrats during a closed-door White House meeting on Wednesday and sparring publicly with Republican allies.
The chaotic day was a U-turn from earlier this week when the administration applied new sanctions on Turkey in an effort to combat fierce criticism from Capitol Hill and when Republicans were dialing back their furor in an effort to get on the same page as Trump.
But the unity effort went off the rails in a closed-door meeting between Trump, congressional leadership and key committee members, which was preceded by hours of fighting between Trump and lawmakers.
Congressional Democrats and sources say the president used the meeting to fume at Democrats and former administration officials, at one point calling Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a “third-rate politician” and former Defense Secretary James Mattis “the world’s most overrated general.”
“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown, sad to say,” Pelosi told reporters after she left the meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
“We have to pray for his health because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president,” she added after returning to the Capitol.
Schumer said Trump was “insulting” to Pelosi.
“She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician,” Schumer said. “I mean, this was not a dialogue. It was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe.”
A Democratic source familiar with how the meeting transpired said it “devolved into the president calling the Speaker a name. He was quite nasty, so she stood up to go. She started to sit back down but Rep. Hoyer got her to go. Pelosi and Hoyer walked out of the meeting.”
|Are You Tired Of The Lies And Non-Stop Propaganda?
No Advertising – No Government Grants – This Is Independent Media
The source added that when Pelosi and Hoyer were preparing to walk out of the meeting, Trump said to them: “I’ll see you at the polls.”
The White House hit back at Democrats in a statement and defended Trump. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham described Trump as “measured, factual and decisive.”
“Speaker Pelosi’s decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising. She had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues,” Grisham said.
She also knocked Democrats for leaving the meeting, saying they “chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine” while “everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on behalf of this country.”
The standoff at the White House was the latest twist in a dramatic Wednesday that started with Republicans and Trump moving toward the same page and ended with the president waging a high-stakes battle with Democrats and GOP allies alike.
“I think he just needs to understand that this was a mistake and he needs to work with us,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters, outlining his hopes for the meeting.
Trump infuriated Republicans when he dismissed the Kurds during an Oval Office meeting by saying they were “no angels.” He also downplayed the need for the United States to become actively involved in ending Turkey’s military invasion of Syria, saying “it’s not our border.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered an unprompted defense of the Kurds during his weekly press conference, and characterized Trump’s decision to pull back troops as a “mistake.”
“I don’t know how many times I need to say it, and I think I’m speaking for most members of my conference, that this was a mistake and I hope it can be repaired,” McConnell said.
Told about Trump’s comments, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added: “Oh my goodness gracious. Oh my goodness gracious.”
“Abandoning them was a very dark moment in American history,” he added. “The door was opened for what is occurring by the decision taken by the administration. So for us to be shocked and to look at Turkey and say, ‘My goodness, we can’t believe what you’re doing’ — we were the ones who opened that door.”
The pushback is a stark reversal from Tuesday, or even earlier Wednesday, when Republicans seemed to be making an effort to align themselves with Trump after he announced sanctions on Turkey and deputized Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to travel to Turkey to try to negotiate an offramp.
Underscoring the reversal, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) started Wednesday by publicly blaming Turkey for the current situation in Syria. By lunchtime, he was locked in another spat with Trump, who publicly called him out during a meeting at the White House.
“I think I’m elected to have a say about our national security, that in my view what is unfolding in Syria is going to be a disaster. I hope I’m wrong. I will not be quiet,” Graham told reporters. “The president’s decision here, I think, is the biggest mistake of his presidency. And I will not ever be quiet — I will not ever be quiet about matters of national security.”
He added in a tweet that Trump “appears to be hell-bent on making the same mistakes in Syria as President Obama made in Iraq.”
The House and Senate were supposed to receive classified briefings on the situation Thursday, but the briefings were nixed.
Pelosi tweeted Wednesday afternoon she was “deeply concerned that the White House has canceled an all-Member classified briefing on the dangerous situation the President has caused in Syria, denying the Congress its right to be informed as it makes decisions about our national security.”
A Senate aide confirmed that the upper chamber’s briefing was canceled, as well.
A Democratic aide told The Hill that the White House gave “no credible justification” for the cancellation.
The canceled briefings came hours after lawmakers overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to oppose withdrawing from Syria and to back the Kurds, a symbolic rebuke of Trump’s strategy.
In a 354-60 vote — with 129 Republicans voting “yes” — the House passed a resolution from Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that “opposes the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.
It also calls on Turkey to end its military action, says the United States should protect the Kurds and calls on the White House “to present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
While the resolution condemns Trump’s decision, the president is named just once in the measure, when it notes he spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 6.
Nonetheless, Pelosi said Trump appeared “shaken” by the overwhelming nature of the House vote.
In his remarks after the White House meeting, Schumer called on McConnell to take up the resolution. A Senate version of the measure has been introduced by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.).
“We urge Leader McConnell to not just condemn the president, but put this resolution on the floor,” Schumer said. “The safety of America, the safety of the Kurds are in the hands of one person, President Trump, and the best way to pressure him is a strong, bipartisan resolution.”
– Alexander Bolton contributed
This article was originally published by “The Hill“- –
Trump Trolls Unhinged “Nervous Nancy” Pelosi After her Public Meltdown in Oval Office!: Pelosi’s behavior was “unbecoming” according to Rep. McCarthy and the President responded to her by hammering the House Speaker, calling her a “third grade politician.