Oct 9, 2019

Evangelical leaders break with Trump over Turkey's Syria assault

Franklin Graham. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

National evangelical leaders condemned Wednesday President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria following the announced start of Turkey's assault on U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in the region.

Why it matters: More than 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016, according to NBC News, but evangelical leaders said they consider his decision a threat to religious freedom in Syria.

What they're saying:

  • Franklin Graham, son of Reverend Dr. Billy Graham: "TODAY I ask that you join me in praying for the lives affected by the White House decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria. Both Democrat & Republican leaders are deeply concerned bc this would be, in essence, abandoning our closest allies there — the Kurdish people. Also pray for the Christians who the Kurds have been protecting. They could be annihilated. Would you pray w/me that Pres. @realDonaldTrump will reconsider? Thousands of lives hang in the balance," he said on Twitter.
  • Evangelical radio host Erick Erickson: "Hey @SpeakerPelosi, maybe do a vote to initiate impeachment STAT, have the committee get out articles by tonight and over to the Senate, and perhaps we'll still have time to save some of the Kurds," he tweeted. He previously said in February he would probably vote for Trump in 2020.
  • Tony Perkins, a commissioner for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF): He retweeted a USCIRF tweet that reads, "#USCIRF deeply concerned re: U.S. withdrawal from & #Turkey's imminent incursion into northeastern #Syria; potentially grave implications for safety of religious and ethnic communities akin to 2018 humanitarian disaster in #Afrin. See USCIRF 2019 recommendation."

Go deeper: Republicans condemn Turkish assault on Kurds in wake of Trump's Syria decision

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Trump's personal pastor will act as liaison with president’s base from White House

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Televangelist Paula White, President Trump's personal pastor, will join the White House as a member of the Office of Public Liaison, a White House official told the New York Times.

The big picture: In 2020, Trump needs to secure the white evangelical voters that boosted his 2016 campaign. That demographic remains the only faith-based group with a majority that favors Trump, although evangelical leaders recently broke with the president over his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria.

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Lindsey Graham on Trump's Syria decision: "He's putting the nation at risk"

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In an interview with Axios on Tuesday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) condemned President Trump in his harshest language yet for deciding to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, suggesting Trump is violating his oath of office by allowing Turkey to move in and attack the Kurds.

Driving the news: Graham said Trump is making the biggest mistake of his presidency, against the advice of his national security team, and putting his presidency in peril. "I think he's putting the nation at risk, and I think he's putting his presidency at risk," Graham said. "And I hope he will adjust his policies like he did before. That would actually be a sign of real leadership."

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019

Republicans condemn Turkish assault on Kurds in wake of Trump's Syria decision

Smoke following Turkish bombardment on Syrian town of Ras al-Ain. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

Republican members of Congress on Wednesday harshly condemned Turkey's ongoing military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, which follows President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area.

The big picture: Some of the most intense criticism of Trump's Syria decision, which cleared the way for Turkey to attack Kurdish fighters that they consider terrorists, has come from the president's closest allies in Congress. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are drafting a bipartisan bill to sanction Turkey for attacking the primarily-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, which partnered with the U.S. in 2015 in the fight against ISIS.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019