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White House denies Erdogan claim that Trump apologized after Turkish guards assaulted D.C. protesters

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens to President Trump during a dinner at U.N. headquarters Tuesday. (Pool photo/Presidency Press Service/AP)

The White House is denying that President Trump apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for an incident this summer in which police say his guards attacked protesters on the streets of Washington.

The incident prompted charges by local officials and a reprimand by the Trump administration. Erdogan's armed guards were seen on video charging after anti-regime protesters and assaulting them just outside the Turkish ambassador's residence. Nine people, mostly protesters, were injured in the scuffle.

Erdogan's guards clash with protesters outside Turkish ambassador's D.C. residence

In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Tuesday, Erdogan claimed that in a phone call with Trump this month, the president said he was “sorry” for the incident.

“Actually, President Trump called me about a week ago about this issue,” Erdogan said. “He said that he was sorry, and he told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.”

But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that while the issue was discussed, there was “no apology.”

An official readout of the call, which occurred on Sept. 9, did not mention the altercation at all. It only noted that Trump “emphasized the common commitment of the United States and Turkey to work together to increase regional stability.”

Erdogan has complained that the repercussions for his guards were offensive to Turkey because the protesters opposed his regime.

“The protesters were insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting,” he told PBS. “The police failed to intervene properly.”

“And similar protests were seen around the White House as well when we were inside of the embassy residence,” he added. “The protesters were very close to my car, to my vehicle.”

In videos of the incident, D.C. police were seen attempting to restrain Erdogan's guards, who charged at the chanting protesters. The incident happened in a parklike area near the embassy while Erdogan sat in a car nearby.

D.C. police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck on Wednesday declined to comment on Erdogan’s criticism of the police handling of the protests, noting that the Turkish leader has “consistently stated that since the incident.”

In June, after a dozen Turkish security guards were charged with assaulting peaceful protesters outside the ambassador’s residence at Sheridan Circle, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) called the melee a “vicious attack” and an “affront to our values.”

Three additional security guards were charged in August, bringing the total to 15. All are in Turkey, and none have been arrested. Also, four people not affiliated with Turkish security were charged with assaults; at least one was protesting Erdogan and is also listed as a victim in an attack by one of the guards.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said in June he had never seen such an attack in his nearly three decades of policing. “We all saw the violence that was perpetrated against peaceful protesters, and it’s not something that we’re going to tolerate,” he said.

The chief and other police officials defended their actions at the protest, denying that demonstrators got too close to Erdogan or the residence. Erdogan has also stated that the protesters lacked a permit; police have repeatedly said a permit was not required.

Police have noted that some of the security guards had guns, adding to the tension, and that at one point Turkish security personnel broke through a police line and “commenced a second assault . . . in a nearly simultaneous coordinated throng.”

Peter Hermann contributed to this report.