McConnell: 'I want to express my gratitude' to Kurds

McConnell: 'I want to express my gratitude' to Kurds
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (R-Ky.) offered an unprompted defense of the Kurds on Wednesday, hours after President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE said they “weren’t angels.”

McConnell began his weekly leadership press conference by speaking about the Kurds, noting that they were “great fighters” and had been an “extremely valuable alliance.”

“I want to express my gratitude to the Kurds,” he added.

McConnell didn’t directly mention Trump during his initial remarks, but noted the situation in Syria was “very concerning.”
"I'm sorry that we are where we are. I hope the vice president and the Secretary of State can somehow repair the damage," McConnell said. 
McConnell added that Turkey was also a NATO ally, and that the United States shouldn't want to "completely fracture our relationship" or "further drive them into the arms of the Russians." 

Trump has sent mixed signals about his decision, slapping new sanctions on Turkey even as he's publicly distanced himself from the Kurdish fighters. 

During a White House meeting on Wednesday, Trump told reporters that the Kurds "were no angels." 

“They’re no angels. They’re no angels. Go back and take a look,” he said. 

The remark drew immediate backlash on Capitol Hill. 

“Oh my goodness gracious. Oh my goodness gracious. The Kurds are our friends and our allies,” said Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDeval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah MORE (R-Utah). 

The push back is the latest sign of disagreement between Republicans and Trump since the White House announced it was pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria ahead of the Turkish military operation. 
The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Wednesday formally breaking with Trump's decision and urging Turkey to stop its military incursion. 
McConnell on Wednesday told reporters that he and most Republican senators thought Trump's decision was a "mistake."