Senate Foreign Relations chair: Erdogan referendum win 'not something to applaud'

The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee rebuffed President Trump Tuesday for congratulating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a referendum vote dramatically expanding his authority.

In an appearance on CNN's "New Day" alongside Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Democrats, voting rights groups pressure Senate to approve mail-in voting resources MORE (D-Del.), who is also on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Tenn.) said that Erdogan has put Turkey on a path toward authoritarianism and should not be encouraged.

"To me, it's certainly not something to applaud," Corker said. "It is concerning that we have a NATO ally that is moving toward a lesser democracy within its own country and it's not, in my opinion, it's not something to congratulate him on."


Turkish voters narrowly approved a referendum earlier this month expanding Erdogan's presidential powers, abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving Erdogan sweeping authority to appoint ministers and judges. The vote has been widely criticized by international election monitors.

The country's high court on Tuesday rejected a request by Erdogan's opponents to appeal the results of the April 16 vote, arguing that it was not within their jurisdiction to do so.

Erdogan has increasingly worked to consolidate his power in Turkey after a failed military coup last summer threatened to overthrow his government. Shortly after the referendum vote, the Turkish government said that Trump had called to congratulate Erdogan.

The White House later confirmed the phone call but emphasized that the brunt of the conversation focused on NATO and reaffirming the alliance between the U.S. and Turkey.

"Erdogan is increasingly tilting towards an authoritarian streak," Coons said. "I'm not sure I would have encouraged the president to congratulate him on this, given the outcome and the conduct of his government, internally."