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

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 12,220,166 — Total deaths: 553,438 — Total recoveries — 6,696,632Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 3,111,902 — Total deaths: 133,195 — Total recoveries: 969,111 — Total tested: 38,032,966Map.
  3. Public health: More young people are spreading the virus Cases rise in 33 statesFlorida reports highest single-day death toll since pandemic began.
  4. Science: World Health Organization acknowledges airborne transmission of coronavirus.
  5. 1 🐂 thing: How the world could monitor for potential pandemic animal viruses.
4 hours ago - Podcasts

Inside Joe Biden's economic plan

Joe Biden on Thursday returned to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to give his first major speech on economic policy since becoming the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Axios Re:Cap digs into Biden's plans, how they developed and how they may change, with former U.S. Commerce secretary and campaign surrogate Penny Pritzker.

5 hours ago - World

Countries grapple with whether to lock back down as hotspots emerge

Tokyo in the time of coronavirus. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty

Many politicians and public health officials sounded a similar lockdown refrain in the spring: let’s do this right so we only have to do it once.

Reality check: While some countries have thus far managed to keep cases under control after opening up, dozens of countries that had initially turned a corner are now seeing a worrying rebound. They have to decide if and how to return to lockdown — and whether their populations will stand for it.