- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 12, 2019

President Trump scolded the “far left” Saturday as an existential threat to America and accused House Democrats of hating the country as he rallied evangelical supporters to stick by him amid a Democratic impeachment bid.

He also defended his approach to the worsening crisis in northern Syria, saying the U.S. shouldn’t be “guarding a border between Turkey and Syria when we can’t guard our own borders at home.”

“I don’t think so,” a defiant Mr. Trump told the Values Voter Summit, a coalition of evangelicals who adore his policies but have questioned his approach to the Turkish incursion.

Mr. Trump said the U.S. routed the Islamic State, so “we have to go home, we did our job.”

Much of Mr. Trump’s speech focused on his accomplishments for Christian conservatives and his long list of grievances with Democrats and the “far left.” He said liberals are using the courts to rewrite laws and pass the agenda “they can’t pass at the ballot box.”

“Together we will stand up to the socialists,” Mr. Trump told the gathering in northwest Washington. “Frankly, these people are crazy.”

The president cast himself as the main bulwark against progressives, saying they won’t expand abortion rights or allow the IRS to infringe on houses of worship on his watch. He touted his Israel policy and pointed to the huge slate of conservative judges he’s put on the bench, likely reshaping the courts for decades to come.

Mr. Trump is courting Christian conservatives who were critical to his 2016 victory and will be pivotal in 2020, as he faces some of the toughest challenges of his presidency.

Democrats say a phone call in which Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a political rival, merits impeachment.

“I never thought I’d see or hear that way with regard to me,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s an ugly word.”

“It means horrible horrible crimes and things,” he added. “I can’t even believe it.”

Mr. Trump delivered applause lines and humorous gibes amid reports of worsening conditions on the ground in northern Syria, where U.S.-allied Kurds are battling an attack from Turkey.

The White House last Sunday announced that about 50 American special forces would exit a key buffer zone along the Turkey-Syria border. Days later, Turkey launched a military assault against the Kurds.

Online commentators on Saturday shared videos of crying Kurdish families and atrocities being committed in the region. They also criticized the president for spending the earlier part of the day on the golf course.

The president’s handling of the situation has alarmed his evangelical allies, yet Mr. Trump did not back down from his position Saturday, saying he pledged to bring troops home and that the media will criticize him no matter what he does.

“These wars, they never end, and we have to bring our great soldiers back from the never-ending wars,” Mr. Trump said. “We can’t stay there forever.”

The White House late Saturday said Mr. Trump released $50 million in stabilization assistance to protect persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and “advance human rights.” It called on international partners to contribute as well.

Mr. Trump said he understands the Kurdish situation “better than most,” and that going into the Middle East in the first place was a big mistake. He pledged to protect Christians and religious minorities in the region and reiterated his threat to sanction Turkey amid the violence.

Much of Mr. Trump’s speech focused on his battles at home. He said his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was perfectly fine, so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her troops are injuring the nation with their impeachment ambitions.

“I think she hates our country,” he said. “If she didn’t hate our country, she wouldn’t be doing this to our country.”

Many Republicans have said Mr. Trump’s actions do not merit impeachment, though they’ve struggled to say whether his comments were appropriate.

Mr. Trump was defiant in his speech from the hotel ballroom.

“They’re coming after me because I’m fighting for you,” he said.

Created in 2006, the Values Voter Summit bills itself as a forum “to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”

Mr. Trump in 2017 became the first sitting president to address the summit, which is chiefly sponsored by FRC Action — the legislative arm of the conservative Family Research Council.

This year’s summit honored Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who was detained in Turkey in the wake of a failed coup d’etat attempt against Mr. Erdogan in 2016.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey and then secured his release.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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