During the first public impeachment inquiry hearing Wednesday morning, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent explained how valuable an invitation to the White House is for foreign heads of state. “New leaders, particular countries that are trying to have good footing in the international arena see a meeting with the U.S. president in the Oval Office at the White House as the ultimate sign of endorsement and support from the United States,” he said.
On Wednesday, Trump lent that endorsement to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I’m a big fan of the president,” Trump said during a joint press conference with the authoritarian leader, who has jailed dissident journalists human rights activists, and others, while advocating for the decapitation of those who oppose him. “You’re doing a fantastic job for the people of Turkey,” Trump added.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 13, 2019
The meeting comes after Erdogan ordered an invasion of northern Syria in order to slaughter the Kurds, who had long been U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS. Trump precipitated that invasion by defying the Pentagon, Congress, and those in his own administration by pulling U.S. troops out of the region, at Erdogan’s request. The invasion displaced over 100,000 Kurds, a group Erdogan has described as “terrorists” who need to be eradicated.
“The president has a great relationship with the Kurds,” Trump said on Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump addressed his decision to abandon the Kurds by pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria, noting that it wasn’t a total pullout. Troops were left behind not to contain ISIS, Trump explained, but to secure Syrian oil. As Trump’s former envoy on ISIS Brett McGurk pointed out on Twitter, this is illegal.
Senior US officials keep trying to clean this up, claiming US troops are really staying in Syria due to ISIS, but the troops are there on Trunp’s orders, and he keeps saying this (“only for the oil”) — which is totally illegal. https://t.co/iBIwOJHUbT
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) November 13, 2019
Suddenly pulling American forces out of northern Syria isn’t the only suspicious action Trump has taken in service of Erdogan.
In April, Trump told Erdogan he would have Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Attorney General William Barr “handle” an ongoing Justice Department investigation into a Turkish state-owned bank for alleged fraud, money laundering, and plans to disregard U.S. sanctions on Iran. Nothing materialized from the case until, coincidentally, right after Trump imposed economic sanctions on Turkey for invading Syria, when an indictment was unsealed. The indictment was undated, leading many to believe its release had been held up…for some strange reason.
Unrelated to all of this, of course, are Trump’s extensive business dealings in Turkey. He’s even got a Trump Tower in Istanbul.