Trump hits back at Graham over Syria criticism

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE on Wednesday fired back at close ally Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.) over Graham's criticism of Trump's withdrawal from Syria, arguing the senator should focus on investigating the 2016 election instead of the Middle East.

"Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years with thousands of soldiers and fighting other people's wars. I want to get out of the Middle East," Trump said at a joint press conference with the Italian president.


Trump said Graham should focus on his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee investigating allegations of corruption during the 2016 election involving Obama administration officials. The president suggested he look into former President Obama, former CIA Director James Brennan, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyNYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE and others, alleging without evidence that they acted corruptly in the lead-up to his electoral victory.

"That’s what Lindsey ought to focus on," Trump said. "That's what the people of South Carolina want him to focus on."

"The people of South Carolina don't want us to get into a war with Turkey, a NATO member, over Syria," Trump added. "Let them fight their own wars."

The senator dug in upon hearing of Trump's criticism, tweeting that he will "NEVER be quiet" on matters of national security.

"The worst thing any Commander in Chief can do is to give land back to the enemy that was taken through blood and sacrifice," Graham tweeted. "I fear those are the consequences of the actions being taken right now." 

When it comes to America's national security I will NEVER be quiet.

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 16, 2019

Graham, typically a staunch Trump defender, has been at odds with the president ever since the White House announced earlier this month that it was pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria.

The decision has led to bloodshed and uncertainty in the region as Turkey launched an offensive into northern Syria within days of the announcement from the White House.

Lawmakers have hammered the Trump administration for its decision, accusing it of abandoning its Kurdish allies who helped fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and warning that the move could lead to the terror group's resurgence.

Speaking in the Oval Office earlier Wednesday, Trump insisted that the conflict playing out in Syria "has nothing to do with us," and he downplayed the value of the Kurdish alliance, telling reporters that the Kurds are "no angels."

The remarks drew a rebuke from Graham, who raised concerns that Trump's shift in strategy could be worse than former President Obama's decision to leave Iraq.

"I worry we will not have allies in the future against radical Islam, ISIS will reemerge, & Iran’s rise in Syria will become a nightmare for Israel," Graham tweeted. "I fear this is a complete and utter national security disaster in the making and I hope President Trump will adjust his thinking."

The rift between Trump and Graham and urged him to agree to a ceasefire came just as the two appeared to be finding common ground on the response to Turkey.

Trump on Monday announced new sanctions on Ankara over its incursion into northern Syria. Graham joined Trump at the White House when the president called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and urged him to agree to a ceasefire.

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Is Mike Pence preparing to resign, assume the presidency, or both? Pence to visit Iowa days before caucuses MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process MORE are set to depart later Wednesday to meet with Turkish officials, including Erdoğan, to try and broker an end to the violence. But Trump's insistence that he will not reconsider taking troops out of northern Syria and his repeated assertions that the conflict there should be left for others to deal with threatens to undercut the delegation's negotiating position, something Graham himself noted.

During Wednesday's press conference, Trump stood silently as Italian President Sergio Mattarella said through an interpreter that Italy is "deeply concerned with Turkey's offensive."