Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) admonished President Donald Trump for failing to punish Turkey for its invasion of northern Syria, asserting Sunday that senior administration officials “look ridiculous” while U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters are slaughtered as part of the offensive.
“They're asking Turkey, ‘Oh, please, please stop what you're doing,’” Van Hollen told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” of the Trump administration’s response.
“That is nothing. So, that's why you're going to see a strong bipartisan response from the Congress,” he continued.
Van Hollen and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have emerged as two of the fiercest congressional critics of Trump’s decision last weekend to allow the Turkish military to enter into Syria, where it has engaged the Syrian Kurdish militias that helped American forces quash Islamic State forces in the region.
The senators released a bill Wednesday that threatens a series of economic sanctions against Turkey for its incursion, and Van Hollen claimed Sunday that “momentum is building for the Congress to act” amid the dayslong Turkish assault.
“Congress is going to first call upon the president to do the right thing, but since we can't count on that, we will have this bipartisan legislation that will impose very stiff sanctions on Turkey until they stop their aggression and withdraw their forces,” he said.
Van Hollen also blasted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s announcement Friday that Trump would sign an executive order granting the Treasury Department, in consultation with the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “very significant new sanctions authorities” against Turkey.
While Mnuchin warned the administration “can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” he stressed that “there are no sanctions at this time” against Ankara.
“For God's sakes, what are they waiting for, right? People are being killed right now,” Van Hollen said Sunday.
“Here you have Secretary Mnuchin saying, ‘Oh, well, we'll think about it. Maybe we'll do something.’ President Trump tweeting that he's going to destroy their economy. They look ridiculous right now,” he added. “So, that's why it's important that the Congress move forward on this front. I don't know what this administration is waiting for. All they're doing is talking while people are being killed.”