War of words at the White House

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE poured fuel on the fire in his fight with Congress over Syria, lashing out at Democrats during a closed-door White House meeting on Wednesday and sparring publicly with Republican allies.

The chaotic day was a U-turn from earlier this week when the administration applied new sanctions on Turkey in an effort to combat fierce criticism from Capitol Hill and when Republicans were dialing back their furor in an effort to get on the same page as Trump.

But the unity effort went off the rails in a closed-door meeting between Trump, congressional leadership and key committee members, which was preceded by hours of fighting between Trump and lawmakers.

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Congressional Democrats and sources say the president used the meeting to fume at Democrats and former administration officials, at one point calling Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMalaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations Pelosi warns allies against using Huawei Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Calif.) a “third-rate politician” and former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Why US democracy support matters Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul MORE “the world’s most overrated general.”

“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown, sad to say,” Pelosi told reporters after she left the meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing House panel approves bill to grant DC statehood Democrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' MORE (D-Md.).

“We have to pray for his health because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president,” she added after returning to the Capitol.

Schumer said Trump was “insulting” to Pelosi.

“She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician,” Schumer said. “I mean, this was not a dialogue. It was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe.”

A Democratic source familiar with how the meeting transpired said it “devolved into the president calling the Speaker a name. He was quite nasty, so she stood up to go. She started to sit back down but Rep. Hoyer got her to go. Pelosi and Hoyer walked out of the meeting.”

The source added that when Pelosi and Hoyer were preparing to walk out of the meeting, Trump said to them: “I’ll see you at the polls.”

The White House hit back at Democrats in a statement and defended Trump. White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamBarr: Trump's tweets make it 'impossible for me to do my job' Hope Hicks to return to White House Record crowd numbers expected at India cricket stadium for Trump's visit MORE described Trump as “measured, factual and decisive.”

“Speaker Pelosi’s decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising. She had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues,” Grisham said.

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She also knocked Democrats for leaving the meeting, saying they “chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine” while “everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on behalf of this country.”

The standoff at the White House was the latest twist in a dramatic Wednesday that started with Republicans and Trump moving toward the same page and ended with the president waging a high-stakes battle with Democrats and GOP allies alike.

“I think he just needs to understand that this was a mistake and he needs to work with us,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills Senate votes to rein in Trump's power to attack Iran As many as eight GOP senators expected to vote to curb Trump's power to attack Iran MORE (R-S.D.) told reporters, outlining his hopes for the meeting.

Trump infuriated Republicans when he dismissed the Kurds during an Oval Office meeting by saying they were “no angels.” He also downplayed the need for the United States to become actively involved in ending Turkey’s military invasion of Syria, saying “it’s not our border.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ky.) offered an unprompted defense of the Kurds during his weekly press conference, and characterized Trump’s decision to pull back troops as a “mistake.”

“I don’t know how many times I need to say it, and I think I’m speaking for most members of my conference, that this was a mistake and I hope it can be repaired,” McConnell said.

Told about Trump’s comments, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDonald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina Yes, Democrats have to defend their African-American base against Trump MORE (R-Utah) added: “Oh my goodness gracious. Oh my goodness gracious.”

“Abandoning them was a very dark moment in American history,” he added. “The door was opened for what is occurring by the decision taken by the administration. So for us to be shocked and to look at Turkey and say, ‘My goodness, we can’t believe what you’re doing’ — we were the ones who opened that door.”

The pushback is a stark reversal from Tuesday, or even earlier Wednesday, when Republicans seemed to be making an effort to align themselves with Trump after he announced sanctions on Turkey and deputized Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo promotes economic ties, takes aim at corruption in Africa visit Russian foreign minister says he sensed 'more constructive' approach after meeting with Pompeo Donald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim MORE to travel to Turkey to try to negotiate an offramp.

Underscoring the reversal, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony US defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban MORE (R-S.C.) started Wednesday by publicly blaming Turkey for the current situation in Syria. By lunchtime, he was locked in another spat with Trump, who publicly called him out during a meeting at the White House.

“I think I’m elected to have a say about our national security, that in my view what is unfolding in Syria is going to be a disaster. I hope I’m wrong. I will not be quiet,” Graham told reporters. “The president’s decision here, I think, is the biggest mistake of his presidency. And I will not ever be quiet — I will not ever be quiet about matters of national security.”

He added in a tweet that Trump “appears to be hell-bent on making the same mistakes in Syria as President Obama made in Iraq.”

The House and Senate were supposed to receive classified briefings on the situation Thursday, but the briefings were nixed.

Pelosi tweeted Wednesday afternoon she was “deeply concerned that the White House has canceled an all-Member classified briefing on the dangerous situation the President has caused in Syria, denying the Congress its right to be informed as it makes decisions about our national security.”

A Senate aide confirmed that the upper chamber’s briefing was canceled, as well.

A Democratic aide told The Hill that the White House gave “no credible justification” for the cancellation.

The canceled briefings came hours after lawmakers overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to oppose withdrawing from Syria and to back the Kurds, a symbolic rebuke of Trump’s strategy. 

In a 354-60 vote — with 129 Republicans voting “yes” — the House passed a resolution from Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Army says it isn't investigating Vindman | White House outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike | Service member dies in Africa Trump administration outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike Pompeo to testify on Iran in February MORE (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars Hillicon Valley: Tech confronts impact of coronavirus | House GOP offers resolution to condemn UK over Huawei | YouTube lays out plans to tackle 2020 misinformation GOP lawmakers introduce resolution denouncing UK's Huawei decision MORE (R-Texas) that “opposes the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

It also calls on Turkey to end its military action, says the United States should protect the Kurds and calls on the White House “to present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

While the resolution condemns Trump’s decision, the president is named just once in the measure, when it notes he spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 6.

Nonetheless, Pelosi said Trump appeared “shaken” by the overwhelming nature of the House vote.

In his remarks after the White House meeting, Schumer called on McConnell to take up the resolution. A Senate version of the measure has been introduced by Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMenendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees Senators condemn UN 'blacklisting' of US companies in Israeli settlements Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle MORE (D-N.J.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (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.”

– Alexander Bolton contributed