- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2019

President Trump wrangled with troublesome ally Turkey at the White House Wednesday, taking on the role of a statesman who was too busy to watch the partisan impeachment hearings across town.

While Democrats took aim at Mr. Trump’s foreign policy in Ukraine, the president hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a daylong effort to ease rising tensions over Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria against America’s Kurdish allies.

Asked about the impeachment hearing at a news conference with Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Trump said in an even tone that he couldn’t be bothered to watch.


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“I hear it’s a joke,” Mr. Trump said. “I haven’t watched for one minute, because I’ve been with the president [of Turkey], which is much more important as far as I’m concerned.”

The president said White House aides relayed to him that the impeachment testimony focused on “all third-hand information.”



“I’d much rather focus on peace in the Middle East,” Mr. Trump said dismissively.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham did watch the hearing, between yawns. Her verdict: It wasn’t “must-see TV.”

“This sham hearing is not only boring, it is a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money,” Ms. Grisham tweeted. She said Congress should be working on passing the president’s new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, as well as “funding our govt & military, working on reduced drug pricing & so much more.”

Mr. Trump’s day of diplomacy presented a carefully calibrated contrast to the accusations from Democrats that he engaged in self-serving foreign policy with Ukraine. The president and first lady Melania Trump greeted the Turkish leader and his wife, Emine, at the South Portico before both couples moved to the Oval Office for discussions.

After lunch, Mr. Trump invited five Republican senators to a meeting with Mr. Erdogan in an effort to smooth over Turkey’s anger at a House resolution that characterized the Ottoman Turks’ killing of the Armenians a century ago as genocide.

The timing of the resolution was seen as a rebuke to Turkey for its invasion of northern Syria last month. Mr. Erdogan said his country was “hurt deeply” by the measure and that it caused a “deep shadow over our bilateral relations.”

Republican lawmakers pressed Mr. Erdogan about Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-built S-400 missile-defense system despite Turkey’s membership in NATO. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, also expressed concerns about the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that Turkey is fighting in Syria.

Sen. Rick Scott, Florida Republican, said he wants to see Turkey moving closer to the U.S. instead of Russia.

Mr. Trump offered an upbeat assessment of his talks with Mr. Erdogan, casting himself several times as a peacemaker.

“The cease-fire is holding very well,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve been speaking to the Kurds and they seem very satisfied. I want to thank the president for the job they’ve done.”

The president said of the group he assembled, “These people want to see peace in the Middle East, and I thought it would be appropriate to have them come over. We had a lot of very frank discussions. We’re dealing with a very big subject, a complex subject. We’re making a lot of progress, tremendous progress in the Middle East.”

Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 system from Moscow presents “serious challenges,” Mr. Trump said, but he hoped they can be resolved. He asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other advisers to work on the issue.

Mr. Trump sympathized with Turkey’s complaint that some Kurdish forces, which Ankara considers terrorists, have been responsible for attacks on ethnic Turks.

“I understand the problems that they’ve had — including many people from Turkey being killed, in the area that we’re talking about,” Mr. Trump said. “He has to do something about that also. It’s not a one-way street.”

Turkey’s relationship with Washington has been increasingly tense for several years since an aborted coup in Turkey in 2016 that Mr. Erdogan blamed on a Muslim cleric living in the U.S.

Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Erdogan “have been very good friends.”

“We understand each others’ countries, we understand where we’re coming from,” he said.

Among the issues under discussion between the two leaders are a possible new trade deal, the sale of F-35 warplanes to Ankara in exchange for Turkey’s discontinuing its use of Russian-made S-400 anti-missile systems. Aides said Mr. Trump also raised concerns about religious freedom in Turkey.

Mr. Trump expressed satisfaction about the withdrawal of some U.S. troops from northern Syria, a move that critics said gave Turkey a green light to attack the Kurds.

Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden criticized the president for meeting with Mr. Erdogan.

“First Trump gave a green light to Erdogan to ethnically cleanse Kurds who helped us defeat ISIS,” Mr. Biden tweeted. “Now he welcomes Erdogan with open arms and sweetheart deals. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, once again, Trump’s personal interests, not US interests, are driving his policy.”

While the president stayed mostly above the impeachment fray Wednesday, his surrogates went full-bore against the Democrat-led hearings.

Presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump tweeted sardonically that, thanks to the president, “7 million more Americans now have jobs and will be working today instead of watching the Democrats’ dumpster fire disguised as an impeachment hearing.”

The White House urged followers of its Twitter account to ignore the Democrats’ star witnesses, longtime State Department officials William Taylor and George Kent.

“Don’t rely on second, third, and fourth-hand accounts. Read the transcript for yourself,” the White House said, referring to a summary of Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine.

Ms. Grisham tweeted out a photograph of the president’s meeting with Mr. Erdogan in the Oval Office and commented that Mr. Trump was working on “important issues.”

“Meanwhile, the dems continue their kangaroo court, wasting taxpayer time & money,” she tweeted.

Presidential son Donald Trump Jr. criticized a Democratic lawmaker who said during the hearing that hearsay evidence could be valuable in certain cases.

“Can you believe this insanity?” he tweeted.

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