Donald Trump had a “meltdown” at the White House in a meeting with House leadership on Wednesday, Democrats said, after Congress passed a bipartisan resolution rebuking him for his withdrawal of troops in northeastern Syria.
In a press conference held immediately after the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said the president turned the meeting into a “diatribe” while attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mr Trump “was insulting, particularly to the speaker,” Mr Schumer said. “He called her a third-rate politician.”
"This was not a dialogue. It was sort of a diatribe," he continued. "Not focused on the facts, particularly the facts about how to contain Isis."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the Democratic leaders were "deeply offended" by the president's comments and walked out of the meeting.
Ms Pelosi also announced the White House had cancelled a classified briefing scheduled for Thursday with House members about the latest developments in Syria.
She said scrapping the meeting prevents Congress from learning about “the dangerous situation” caused by Mr Trump’s withdrawal of troops in the region.
Ms Pelosi said she was “deeply concerned” because House members have a right to be informed about such decisions.
Soon after the meeting a letter from Mr Trump to the Turkish president, dated 9 October, was released. In it the US president tells his counterpart: “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will!”
He adds: “History will look upon you favourably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s letter to #Erdogan. @POTUS warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness pic.twitter.com/9BoSGlbRyt— Trish Regan (@trish_regan)October 16, 2019
The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted its bipartisan condemnation of Mr Trump’s withdrawal shortly before the meeting took place.
Despite stark divisions over Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, both parties banded together to approve a non-binding resolution by a convincing 354-60 vote.
The resolution states Congress’ opposition to the troop pullback and says Turkey should cease its military action in Syria.
The measure also says the White House should present a plan for an “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State group.
At a press conference with Italy’s president earlier in the day, Mr Trump said things were “very nicely under control” in Syria where Turkish forces were fighting Syrian Kurds who were aligned with the US against Isis.
Mr Trump told reporters at the White House that Syrian Kurdish fighters “are no angels” and that Turkey considers them to be terrorists more dangerous than Isis.
Turkey believes the Syrian Kurds who fought alongside the US are linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, which it considers terrorists.
Italy’s president said Italy was deeply concerned about the Turkish offensive in Syria and said it would “offer new space” to Isis.
The developments have had an impact within Mr Trump’s own party as well, with several prominent Republicans close to the president coming out in opposition to the withdrawal of troops.
Lindsey Graham, one of Mr Trump’s closest allies, says the decision would allow Isis to re-emerge. The South Carolina Republican said Mr Trump would “be held accountable”, adding that the president’s decision was “against all sound military advice”.
He also said he hopes Mr Trump “will reconsider, stop the bloodshed and reset the table before it’s too late”.
Mr Graham said that if Mr Trump continues along those lines, “then our foreign policy is in a very bad spot in the Middle East and to those who think the Mideast doesn’t matter to America, remember 9/11 we had that same attitude on [11 September] 2001”.
Another Republican senator, Florida’s Marco Rubio, told reporters that he didn’t know what could be done to undo the harm that’s resulted from the withdrawal. Mr Rubio said: “There are some mistakes that are not easy to reverse. And there are some that are irreversible.”
Additional reporting by AP