Corker says Trump canceled planned meeting amid concerns over Syria pullout

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that a planned meeting with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE was abruptly canceled amid growing questions over the administration's decision to pull out of Syria. 

“It was to be a meeting, we've obviously had an interesting relationship over the course of the last couple of years, really two and a half, and it was really just a meeting to go by and say hello. It had evolved though into a meeting that was going to be about Syria, let's face it. And so it just ended up, they ended up canceling the meeting,” he told reporters, confirming that he was already at the White House when he learned of the cancellation. 


Corker and Trump have had an acrimonious relationship since Trump took the White House. The Tennessee Republican has criticized the president’s policies and method of governance, saying this week, “What is happening right now is not the standard Republicanism that we've had in our country for many, many years and it's very different.”

The criticism has earned Corker, who is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, the Trump nickname “Liddle' Bob Corker.”

Corker was critical of the White House’s announcement Wednesday that it planned to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria

“It’s hard to imagine that any president would wake up and make this kind of decision with this little communication, with this little preparation,” he said. “I think the Russians already sent out a statement saying it was great. Iranians think it’s great. Syrians think it’s great. I don’t think you see any statements from our friends and allies who think this is great.”

Russia and the U.S. have been supporting opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, with Russia and Iran supporting the government of Bashar Assad and the U.S. backing various rebel forces, which both oppose the government and fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Wednesday praised the withdrawal as an opening for “a political solution.”

Trump announced Wednesday morning that ISIS had been beaten in Syria, accomplishing “my only reason for being there.”

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerHonoring service before self House approves Turkey sanctions in rare bipartisan rebuke of Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran, responded by saying “This is simply not true.”

The White House confirmed in a statement Wednesday after Trump’s tweet that the administration has “started returning United States troops home” but emphasized that coalition efforts in Syria would continue. It also reiterated Trump's claim that “the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate.”

“We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign," her statement said. "The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders.”