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  • Writer's pictureMichael McAuliff

McConnell Hits Trump Syria Pullout Again

If President Trump thought the announcement of a short-term ceasefire by Turkey in Syria was going to fix things with Republicans in Congress, he was wrong.

After Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took to the Senate floor Thursday to castigate Trump's retreat within hours of Vice President Mike Pence's announcement of what Turks are calling a "pause," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is out with an op-ed Friday in the Washington Post that makes many of the same arguments.

"Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake," McConnell wrote. "It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances."

And, as Romney did, McConnell made a comparison to actions Republicans criticized harshly in the Obama administration. "Sadly, the recently announced pullout risks repeating the Obama administration’s reckless withdrawal from Iraq, which facilitated the rise of the Islamic State in the first place," McConnell wrote.

Citing the 9/11 attacks launched from safe havens in Afghanistan, the rise of ISIS in Iraq, and even the United States' response to World War II, the majority leader said the Trump administration had forgotten the lessons learned from retreat in the past, though he did not go as far as comparing Trump to Neville Chamberlain, as so many Republicans did.

He did warn of future catastrophe.

"The combination of a U.S. pullback and the escalating Turkish-Kurdish hostilities is creating a strategic nightmare for our country," McConnell said. "Even if the five-day ceasefire announced Thursday holds, events of the past week have set back the United States’ campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorists.

"Unless halted, our retreat will invite the brutal Assad regime in Syria and its Iranian backers to expand their influence," he continued. "And we are ignoring Russia’s efforts to leverage its increasingly dominant position in Syria to amass power and influence throughout the Middle East and beyond."

Rather than retreat, McConnell wants to re-introduce U.S. forces -- a step that Trump opposes, and that Pence said would not happen at his news conference in Turkey.

It's too soon to say how damaging the fallout from the Syria withdrawal and abandonment of the Kurds will be to Trump, but there have been no shortage of Republicans willing to criticize him for it, and that alone is a substantial break with the past. And it comes as members of the party have been expressing dismay, at least in private, at the latest revelations in the Ukraine impeachment probe, particularly about the admission (soon retracted) of acting Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that Trump did withhold security aid from Ukraine as leverage.

Former Republican Rep. Justin Amash had been the only member of the party to support an impeachment probe of Trump before. Friday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) didn't go as far as saying "impeachment," but he did express concern about Mulvaney's admission, and say he wants an investigation.

“I want to get the facts and do the right thing. Because I’ll be looking at my children a lot longer than I’m looking at anybody in this building," Rooney said, according to Bloomberg.

If Trump cannot ease his own party's anger over Syria, and more Republicans begin to find the revelations of the Ukraine probe impossible to ignore, he may be standing on the edge of a long, fast fall.


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