The Oval Office meeting between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Trump, along with five Republican senators, turned tense when Erdogan pulled out his iPad to play a propaganda video that depicted the Kurds as terrorists.
The unpersuasive video prompted the senators in the room to push back at Erdogan, while Trump sat back and watched, intervening occasionally to moderate the discussion.
- After the film concluded, according to the source, Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Erdoğan: “Well, do you want me to go get the Kurds to make one about what you’ve done?”
- Erdoğan got into a heated back-and-forth with Graham over Turkey’s recent invasion of Syria, according to four sources familiar with the meeting. A source in the room said Erdoğan took exception to Graham using the word “invasion” and that Graham also rebutted Erdoğan when he claimed that Turkey had fought ISIS.
- Turkish officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
- In a phone interview last night, Graham confirmed he clashed with Erdoğan in the Oval. “The Turkish narrative that they have done more to destroy ISIS, I rejected forcefully, and I let Turkey know that 10,000 SDF fighters, mostly Kurds, suffered, died or injured, in the fight against ISIS, and America will not forget that and will not abandon them.”
Trump has stated in the past that it’s not in America’s interest to defend the Kurds, wanting to leave Syria to fight it out with Turkey. He later conceded to leave a few troups in Syria to “keep the oil.”
Behind the scenes: A senior administration official said they invited these senators because they have voiced concerns about Turkey’s purchase of Russian weapons and invasion of Syria. “It shows Erdoğan that they’re serious about sanctions, and Trump doesn’t have to be the bad guy,” the official said. Another senior official said the president believes “full and frank” engagement with Erdoğan is important.
Axios has this story.