Politics Trump and Congress spar over sanctioning Turkey
Erdogan, Trump to meet next month in Washington amid Syria tensions: Turkey
President Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have agreed to meet in Washington in November amid tensions over Syria, Reuters reported Sunday.The agreement came during a phone call Sunday where the two leaders discussed a "safe zone" east of the Euphrates River in Syria from which Kurdish fighters would be withdraw, Ankara reportedly announced.The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.Conflict between the U.S. and Turkey over Kurdish fighters in Syria has been brewing for years.America is allied with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which the U.S.
Facing scathing criticism from Republican lawmakers and members of his own military, President Donald Trump on Monday was working toward applying harsh new sanctions on. But even as he was preparing the economic punishment, a bipartisan group on Capitol Hill was finalizing their own sanctions, threatening to undermine the President's attempts at confronting the growing crisis.
The scramble to apply new sanctions came after Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, a move that paved the way for Turkey's military offensive. Even some of Trump's fiercest defenders have questioned his decision, and senior national security veterans have decried the move as abandoning Kurdish allies.
Trump defends U.S. relations with Turkey after bipartisan backlash
Trump defends U.S. relations with Turkey after bipartisan backlashCritics fear the move will open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces long allied with Washington who have led the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria. Turkey says those forces are terrorists because of their ties to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he is "gravely concerned" about events in Syria that could lead to a "resurgence of ISIS."
"I look forward to discussing what the United States can do to avoid a strategic calamity with my Senate colleagues and with senior administration officials when the Senate returns to Washington this week," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.
Trump has defended his decision and shown little evidence he's second-guessing his instinct with
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Mattis: ISIS will surge back after Trump's Syria withdrawal"I think Secretary of State Pompeo, the intelligence services, the foreign countries that are working with us have it about right that ISIS is not defeated. We have got to keep the pressure on ISIS so they don't recover," Mattis said in an interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press" set to air Sunday.
Trump met Monday with top administration officials -- including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and national security adviser Robert O'Brien -- to discuss options for punishing Turkey economically after Turkish forces launched a military offensive in northeast Syria last week.
But as his team was walking over to the White House residence for the meeting, lawmakers on Capitol Hill forged ahead with their own plans to impose the sanctions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday morning that she spoke on the phone with Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's staunchest allies who nonetheless
Pelosi claimed that Congress should pursue "a stronger sanctions package than what the White House is suggesting."
Trump halting trade negotiations with Turkey, raising its steel tariffs to 50%
President Donald Trump announced Monday that he would "soon" issue an order sanctioning Turkish officials, hiking tariffs on Turkish steel up to 50% and "immediately" halting trade negotiations with the country. © Thomson Reuters Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters hold the Syrian opposition flag at the border town of Tel Abyad, Syria, October 14, 2019.
Graham and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday introduced an outline for strict sanctions on Turkey, and the proposal has quickly picked up support among members from both parties.
White House aides had feared Congress would vote to impose the sanctions before Trump could decide whether to pursue them -- a rebuke that would embarrass the White House and expose how little support the President's Syria decision has in his own party. Some aides feared the Graham-Van Hollen bill was heading toward passage with a veto-proof majority, which occurred in 2017 when Congress voted to hit Russia with sanctions over Trump's reservations.
There is no evidence Trump laid out the possible punishment on Turkey when he spoke by phone last weekend with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a conversation that ended with a statement from the White House that Turkey "will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation" in northern Syria.
The White House also announced that Erdoğan would visit the White House next month, a meeting that so far has not been publicly delayed or canceled.
Erdogan says Turkey will never declare ceasefire in northern Syria -NTV
President Tayyip Erdogan told U.S. President Donald Trump that Turkey will never declare a ceasefire in northeastern Syria, and added that he was not worried about U.S. sanctions over Ankara's offensive, broadcaster NTV reported on Tuesday. © ASSOCIATED PRESS In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke and dust billows from targets in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by bombardment by Turkish forces, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019.
After it became clear that Turkey's planned operation would cause havoc in the region, Trump vaguely threatened to sanction the country amid a barrage of criticism from even his closest allies on Capitol Hill, claiming he would "totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey" if in his "great and unmatched wisdom" he decided Erdoğan had gone too far.
But just two days after Graham and Van Hollen unveiled their bill, Mnuchin was at the White House briefing room podium touting the "very significant new sanctions authorities" that Trump had granted the Treasury Department. The President had not greenlighted any actual sanctions, however, and the announcement was viewed as little more than a verbal warning.
By Sunday, Trump tweeted that he was working with Graham on a sanctions plan and that Treasury would take the lead on executing it. But the following morning, Graham said on Fox News that Congress would be the one imposing those sanctions -- deepening the confusion sowed by Trump's approach to the conflict in Syria.
Trump's decision last week to allow Turkish forces to attack the Kurds in Syria drew fierce backlash not only from Democratic
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While Mnuchin and Trump have both threatened to retaliate economically against Turkey, neither have outlined specific criteria that would trigger the response. Lawmakers, however, are signaling they have already seen enough from Turkish forces to move ahead with sanctions. A senior Republican Senate aide claimed Monday morning that US sanctions for Turkey are "being driven by the Senate, not the administration."
Graham said Monday that he planned to meet with Trump as the two seemingly race to be the one spearheading the sanctions. The South Carolina Republican noted earlier Monday that congressional action on sanctions would "supplement what President Trump's administration has done," although the administration has so far done nothing to retaliate for Turkey's military incursion.
The Graham-Van Hollen bill, which would be the most likely vehicle for moving sanctions through Congress, would sanction the assets of top Turkish leaders -- including its President -- and bar transactions involving the Turkish defense and energy sectors, among other penalties.
But despite the momentum behind the legislation, some Democrats argue that Republicans should still do more to urge Trump to change course.
"Spare me the nonsense on sanctions," wrote Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy. "People are being slaughtered RIGHT NOW. Bombs are dropping on children RIGHT NOW. Instead of drafting sanctions bills, Republicans should use their massive leverage over the President to get him to change course. RIGHT NOW."
Sen. Mitt Romney raises a troubling theory about Trump and Turkey .
Romney suggested that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might have given Trump an ultimatum — and that Trump caved on withdrawing from Syria.But while that line will get a lot of play, there’s something else Romney said that shouldn’t escape notice. He also floated a theory about how Trump arrived at the decision: that he got bullied into it by Turkey and that he backed down.
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