Trump called Pelosi a ‘third-rate politician’ during Syria meeting, top Democrats say
President Trump had a “meltdown” and called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a “third-rate politician” during a meeting Wednesday with congressional leaders on the situation in Syria, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters after they left the meeting early.
The White House had invited leadership and top committee members of both parties and chambers of Congress to discuss Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria.
That withdrawal paved the way for Turkey to initiate an onslaught against Syrian Kurdish forces that were instrumental in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS, and it has been widely criticized by lawmakers across the political spectrum.
Just before lawmakers left for the meeting, the House passed a resolution in a 354-60 vote that rebuked Trump’s decision to retreat from Syria.
Pelosi attributed Trump’s comments to being “shaken” by the overwhelming nature of the House vote, where 129 Republicans sided with Democrats.
“That’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he just wasn’t relating to the reality of it,” Pelosi said.
“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown, sad to say,” she added later.
Schumer added that Trump was “insulting” to Pelosi.
“She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician. He said that there are communists involved and you guys might like that. I mean, this was not a dialogue. It was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe,” Schumer said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also said the attendees “were offended deeply” by Trump’s treatment of Pelosi.
Hoyer, Schumer and Pelosi said they left the meeting after Trump’s comments to Pelosi but that other lawmakers in both parties stayed behind to continue asking questions about Syria and Turkey.
“This crisis required a rational, reasonable discussion between those of us who have been elected by the American people to set policy,” Hoyer said. “Unfortunately, the meeting deteriorated.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) also spoke to reporters a short time later.
McCarthy called Pelosi’s behavior “unbecoming” and criticized her for “storming out.”
“The Speaker tries to make everything political,” McCarthy said, adding that he gives credit to Democrats who stayed after leadership left and that the meeting seemed “much calmer” and “much more productive” after that.
McCarthy and McCaul said they were given assurances that the United States is not withdrawing completely from Syria and would maintain a “residual force.” McCaul added that lawmakers still plan to introduce a Turkey sanctions bill Thursday.
Schumer also said he asked Trump what his plan is to contain ISIS going forward and that Trump’s only response was that Turkey and Syria will guard ISIS prisoners.
“I said, is there any intelligence evidence that the Turks and the Syrians will have the same interest that the Kurds or we did in guarding ISIS? And the secretary of Defense was, thank god he was honest. He said, ‘We don’t have that evidence,’” Schumer said.
“This is appalling,” Schumer added. “The president had no plan, no real plan for containing ISIS.”
Schumer pushed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to put the resolution the House passed Wednesday on the Senate floor. 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.”
Brett Samuels contributed