WASHINGTON (Oct. 16, 2019)--– Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today requested that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provide details regarding President Trump’s recent phone call with Turkish President Erdoğan on October 6th, which led to the President’s agreement to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. Allowing for a Turkish military incursion in the area, President Trump’s decision set off a cascade of destabilizing and chaotic events, weakening our national security and further undermining our credibility with partners and allies.
“It is imperative that Congress and the American people understand what President Trump said on his call with President Erdoğan,” wrote Menendez, citing the Secretary’s contradictory descriptions and asking whether he or any other State Department official was on the line. “As we have now seen from President Trump’s July 25, 2019 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, President Trump is not above putting his own personal interests before U.S. national security interests and you are willing to play along with his betrayal of office and country. We need to understand if another betrayal took place on October 6, and how Turkey came to possess the belief that it now has free rein in the region.”
Menendez requested that the Department provide a list of all Department records related to the call. He also noted President Trump’s history of praising President Erdoğan and the President’s own financial interest in Turkey, which includes a Trump Organization property that has earned him between $1 million and $7 million over the last 3 years.
A copy of the Senator’s letter can be found HERE and below.
The Honorable Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20520
I write to seek details about President Trump’s recent call with Turkish President Erdoğan, during which President Trump agreed to move U.S. troops out of northeastern Syria to allow for a Turkish military operation in the area. President Trump’s October 6, 2019 phone call has set off a cascade of destabilizing events with great significance for the region and U.S. foreign policy. Just over a week later, Kurdish forces, long allied with and protected by U.S. troops, have joined with President Bashar al-Assad out of desperation, Turkey is engaged in troubling military operations, and as a result the U.S. has sanctioned Turkey, a NATO ally. To make matters worse, it now appears Russian troops are filling the void left by President Trump’s decision to remove American troops.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops reportedly came as a surprise to senior administration officials and was apparently made without the knowledge of senior defense officials.
You and other administration officials have contended that the President did not give Turkey a “green light” to move into Syria. Yet, following President Trump’s October 6 call with President Erdoğan, the White House’s own statement said, “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.” It is hard to see what other conclusions could be drawn from this statement.
In the midst of these destabilizing events, President Trump invited President Erdoğan to the White House.
This is not the first time the President has heaped praise on President Erdoğan. Nor is it the only source of President Trump’s relationship with Turkey, which is home to a Trump Organization property that has earned the President between $1 million and $7 million over the last three years. President Erdoğan attended the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul in 2012, and even President Trump acknowledged in the past that he had “a little conflict of interest” when it comes to Turkey.
It is imperative that Congress and the American people understand what President Trump said on his call with President Erdoğan. As we have now seen from President Trump’s July 25, 2019 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, President Trump is not above putting his own personal interests before U.S. national security interests and you are willing to play along with his betrayal of office and country. We need to understand if another betrayal took place on October 6, and how Turkey came to possess the belief that it now has free rein in the region. To that end, I request that you help secure the public release of President Trump’s October 6 call with President Erdoğan and answer the following questions by October 17, 2019:
1. Did the State Department concur with President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria? Who in the Department participated in the decision-making process?
2. Did you have advance knowledge of President Trump’s decision?
3. Was there any interagency discussion prior to Trump’s announcement on Syria? What was the outcome of those discussions?
4. Did you listen in on, participate in, or receive a readout from the October 6 call? If not, did anyone from the State Department?
5. What records do the State Department and the White House have related to the October 6 call between President Trump and President Erdoğan? Is there a verbatim transcript? Please provide a log of all such records and produce them to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee no later than October 30, 2019.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical national security matter.