After a long day of withering criticism from lawmakers and pundits, including many prominent conservatives, President Trump took to Twitter early Thursday morning to defend his abrupt decision to withdraw troops in Syria. In a tweet posted after midnight, Trump quoted Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who said that Trump “gets no credit” for his efforts in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, Trump agreed with that assessment.
Trump’s late-night tweets came after his unexpected announcement on Wednesday that he is ending the U.S. mission against the Islamic State in Syria and claiming victory over ISIS, which he called “my only reason for being there.” He made the decision over the objections of many of his top advisers, The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung reported.
Hours later, a bipartisan group of six senators, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the president’s closest allies in the Senate, sent a letter to Trump to ask him to reconsider and warning that withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria would “renew and embolden” ISIS in the Middle East. Late on Wednesday evening, Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and father to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, pleaded with the president to think of his decision as a “betrayal to Kurds who have sacrificed and shed blood for Americans.”
Less than an hour later, Trump hopped on Twitter himself to cite the praise of Ingraham and the guests from her Wednesday night show who argued that the Middle East had improved under Trump’s leadership. Among those appearing on “The Ingraham Angle” was James Jay Carafano, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and conservative foreign policy adviser at the Heritage Foundation.
“He’s made the Middle East a better place,” Carafano said of Trump. “He’s made Syria less of a problem.”
“He gets no credit for that,” Ingraham interjected.
With added emphasis, Ingraham added, “He gets zero credit for that.”
Defending his decision, Trump wrote out inexact quotes of what Ingraham and Carafano had said during the segment.
The president then gave his thanks to the Fox host.
Ingraham’s show provided the president a rare break from the barrage of critics who argued the decision to withdraw troops was creating uncertainty and potentially heightening instability in Syria.
In their letter to Trump, the bipartisan group of senators described the decision as “a premature and costly mistake” and urged him to reconsider the critical support American troops provide to the Kurds in the ongoing fight against ISIS.
“If you decide to follow through with your decision to pull our troops out of Syria, any remnants of ISIS in Syria will surely renew and embolden their efforts in the region,” the senators wrote. “However, ISIS is not the only threat. The brutal dictatorship of Bashar al Assad continues to weigh heavily upon the Syrian people, and we fear that a withdrawal of our troops may embolden Bashar al Assad to take further actions to solidify his power.”
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he had never seen a decision of this magnitude made with no advanced warning, according to NBC News. “It’s hard to imagine any president would wake up and make this kind of decision with this little communication, with this little preparation,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) labeled the withdrawal “a terrible mistake.” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said, “the fight isn’t over.” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) predicted, “A lot of American allies will be slaughtered if this retreat is implemented.” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) offered a five-word retort on Twitter.
But not all Republicans spoke out against Trump’s announcement. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) commended Trump for his decision. “I’m happy to see a President who can declare victory and bring our troops out of a war,” he wrote.
On Thursday morning, Trump took notice of Paul’s support on Twitter.
The president continued to defend his decision to withdraw troops. “Getting out of Syria was no surprise,” he tweeted. “I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild.”
Trump didn’t relent in his reasoning on Thursday morning. “Do we want to be there forever?” the president asked.
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