WH: Trump's call to Turkish president wasn't endorsement of referendum

WH: Trump's call to Turkish president wasn't endorsement of referendum
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE's phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulating him on the passage of a referendum expanding his governing powers was not an endorsement of the measure, the White House said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump's call to Erdogan on Monday was focused primarily on the "shared interests as a NATO ally and a partner there."

"Look, the Middle East is a pretty rough neighborhood, and sometimes you have to get together to help them beat the bullies, like Syria," Sanders said. "And that was something that certainly needed to be talked about."

ADVERTISEMENT

A referendum broadening Erdogan's presidential powers narrowly passed on Sunday — a move that the country's opposition says will inch Turkey, a democracy, closer to authoritarianism.

Opponents of Erdogan are calling the fairness of the referendum vote into question and demanding a recount.

The Turkish government said in a press release that Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him on the win and to thank him for supporting the United States' missile strike on a Syrian air base earlier this month. The White House issued a readout on Monday confirming the call.

Sanders said that the president was not supporting or accepting the results of the referendum, congratulating Erdogan more as a formality, and that the phone call did not signal an endorsement or acceptance of the voting results.

"We want to encourage democracy. And again, the purpose of the President's call yesterday was not to discourage that but simply to talk about some of the things, like Syria, where they can work together," she said.