Democrats say Trump had a "meltdown" and insulted Pelosi in Syria meeting
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that they walked out of a meeting with President Trump about Turkey's military invasion after he suggested that there was no plan to contain ISIS in Syria and attacked Pelosi in a "nasty diatribe."
"You're going to hear the president say we walked out. We were offended deeply by his treatment of the speaker of the House of Representatives. The president in my view has created a crisis in the Middle East. A crisis that undermines the world's confidence in America. This crisis required a rational, reasonable discussion between those of us elected by the American people to set policy. Unfortunately, the meeting deteriorated into a diatribe, as Leader Schumer has said, and very offensive accusations being made by the president of the United States. I have served with six presidents. I have been in many, many, many meetings like this. Never have I seen a president treat so disrespectfully a co-equal branch of the government of the United States.— House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Why it matters: Pelosi suggested that Trump was "shaken up" after the House voted overwhelmingly and in bipartisan fashion to condemn his decision to move U.S. troops out of northern Syria. Democrats and Republicans alike, including those like Sen. Lindsey Graham who have been among Trump's most loyal defenders, have lobbed intense criticism at the president over allegations that he has abandoned the Kurds.
- Trump defended the decision at a press conference on Wednesday, claiming that the Kurds — who the U.S. allied with in the fight against ISIS — are "not angels," and that Russia and the Syrian government will protect them from Turkey's military offensive.
Between the lines: This was the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Pelosi since House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry. The Washington Post notes that Trump has previously maintained a veneer of respect toward Pelosi because she acted as a buffer against impeachment for so long.
According to a Democratic source, Trump started the meeting with a "bombastic" monologue that included bragging about his letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claiming he had "agreed" to take part in the meeting when it was, in fact, called by the White House. Trump also suggested that that there are communists in Syria and that Democrats would like that.
- At one point, Trump told Pelosi: "I hate ISIS more than you do." Schumer later asked about his plan for Syria, and Trump said: "Our plan is to keep the American people safe." Pelosi responded: "That's not a plan. That's a goal."
- Trump tried to blame President Obama for the situation in Syria and called Pelosi a "third-grade politician."
- Hoyer responded, "This is not useful," before he and Pelosi stood and left the meeting. As they left, Trump stated, "Goodbye, we'll see you at the polls." Schumer left shortly after.
The other side: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters that Pelosi "stormed out of the meeting" and sought to make it "unproductive" and "political" in a moment of crisis.
- The White House said in a statement: "The President was measured, factual and decisive, while Speaker Pelosi's decision to walk out was baffling. ... While Democratic leadership chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine, everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on behalf of this country."