WASHINGTON (AP) — He said she’s a “third-grade” politician. She said he’s having a meltdown.
And with that President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chalked up the latest explosive meeting that ended abruptly with a walkout at the White House.
It’s a familiar ritual, with Trump and congressional leaders meeting on official business, only to see the session devolve into colorful, name-calling commentary that’s a new kind of addition to the history books. But this time, against the backdrop of the fast-moving impeachment inquiry, Pelosi arrived not just as the leader of the opposing party but as the speaker who could determine Trump’s political future.
The administration called in congressional leadership to discuss the situation in Syria. The House had just voted, 354-60, to overwhelmingly oppose the president’s announced U.S. troop withdrawal, a rare bipartisan rebuke. Trump’s action has opened the door for a Turkish military attack on Syrian Kurds who have been aligned with the U.S. in fighting the country’s long-running war.
Trump kicked off the meeting bragging about his “nasty” letter to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, according to a Democrat familiar with the meeting who was granted anonymity to discuss it. In the letter, Trump warned the Turkish leader, with exclamation points, not to be “slaughtering” the Kurds. The person called Trump’s opening a lengthy, bombastic monologue.
Pelosi mentioned the House vote and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, started to read the president a quote from former Defense Secretary James Mattis on the need to keep U.S. troops in Syria to prevent a resurgent of Islamic State fighters.
But Trump cut Schumer off, complaining that Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general. You know why? He wasn’t tough enough.” Trump went on, “I captured ISIS.”
Pelosi explained to Trump that Russia has always wanted a “foothold in the Middle East,” and now it has one with the U.S. withdrawal, according to a senior Democratic aide who was also granted anonymity.
“All roads with you lead to Putin,” the speaker said.
Then it began.
Trump said to Pelosi, “I hate ISIS more than you do.”