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Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria in a series of tweets Monday, saying he would much rather focus on the U.S. southern border and "let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land."

Why it matters: Trump's decision has provoked strong criticism from Republicans in Washington and prominent religious conservatives. Although the president expressed approval at the idea of sanctioning Turkey amid their military offensive into the region, he has stood by the decision to withdraw.

  • "Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte." read one of the president's tweets. "I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!"

The big picture: The primarily Kurdish Syrian Democratic forces, which had allied with the U.S. to fight ISIS, struck a deal with the Syrian government to help protect the border with Turkey, according to a Washington Post report Sunday.

  • On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) discussed a bipartisan effort to overturn the president's withdrawal and potential sanctions against Turkey.

What they're saying:

  • Graham appeared to criticize the president's tweets without directly mentioning him, "To those who believe radical Islam is not a threat to our homeland after 9/11 and the rise of ISIS: you are sadly mistaken and ignoring all military advice."
  • Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also did not name Trump directly in a statement he put out on Twitter more than 30 minutes after Trump began tweeting, but said withdrawing American forces in the region "would only make a troubling situation much worse" for the U.S. and its allies in the region.

Go deeper: Behind the scenes of the Trump bluff that kicked off Turkey's invasion

Go deeper

5 mins ago - World

Putin is challenging Ukraine's "right to exist," Blinken says

Blinken (L) speaks in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: Kay Nietfeld - Pool/Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken put the stakes of a Russian invasion of Ukraine in stark terms on Thursday, saying Vladimir Putin's threat is a direct challenge to Ukraine's "right to exist" as an independent country and a democracy.

What he's saying: “There’s been a lot of speculation about President Putin’s true intentions, but we don’t actually have to guess. He’s told us, repeatedly. He’s laying the groundwork for an invasion because he doesn’t believe Ukraine is a sovereign nation," Blinken said during a speech in Berlin.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Jared Kushner wants to Trump-proof his private equity future

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Jared Kushner appears to have convinced the private equity market that he'll stick with his new firm, called Affinity Partners, even if his father-in-law returns to the White House.

The big picture: Private equity is littered with former presidential advisers and cabinet officials, and Trump's is proving to be no different.

1 hour ago - World

Ukraine president to Biden: "There are no minor incursions"

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded on Thursday to President Biden's suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia may not draw the same response as a large invasion, which some in Kyiv saw as inviting Russian aggression.

What he's saying: "We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power," Zelensky tweeted.