War of words at the White House

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties 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 PelosiRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide On The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation MORE (D-Calif.) a “third-rate politician” and former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Mattis urges people to wear masks in PSA about 'nasty little virus' Dozens of GOP ex-national security officials to form group to back Biden: report 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 SchumerChuck SchumerRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Public awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse to vote on removing bust of Supreme Court justice who wrote Dred Scott ruling Black Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill 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 GrishamMelania Trump's spokeswoman slams 'inappropriate and insensitive comments' about Barron Trump Melania Trump is 'behind-the-scenes' but 'unbelievably influential': book East Wing rips book saying Melania Trump renegotiated prenup before moving to White House 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 ThuneTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names McConnell: Trump shouldn't veto defense bill over renaming Confederate bases 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 McConnellTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Eighty-eight years of debt pieties Ernst says Trump should sign defense policy bill with military base renaming provision 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 RomneyRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem 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 PompeoBack to the future: In January 2021 America needs to rejoin the world and start leading again Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report To support Hong Kong's freedom, remember America's revolution MORE to travel to Turkey to try to negotiate an offramp.

Underscoring the reversal, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Jaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham 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 EngelOn The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm NY Working Families Party director on the state's primary House postpones testimony from key Pompeo aide about IG firing MORE (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulNational security adviser says Trump was not briefed on bounty intelligence, condemns leaks Pentagon: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar 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) MenendezSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers Democratic senator proposes sanctions against Putin over bounties GOP lawmakers voice support for Israeli plan to annex areas in West Bank MORE (D-N.J.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership In the next COVID-19 bill, target innovation and entrepreneurship 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