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Trump defends his decisions over Syria, G7

Updated October 21, 2019 - 10:34 pm

WASHINGTON — With a handful of Republicans criticizing President Donald Trump over his actions on Ukraine, Syria and his initial choice of his own Florida golf resort to host next year’s Group of Seven summit, the Republican president issued this salvo: “The Republicans have to get tougher and fight.”

It was Trump’s way of revisiting the controversies that embroiled his administration last week, as he spoke to reporters during a Monday Cabinet meeting. As he spoke for some 70 minutes, Trump made it known that as he faces impeachment, criticism of his administration probably would be met with his censure.

Trump dismissed House Democrats’ efforts to impeach him, saying they “have to impeach him because otherwise he’s going to win” in 2020.

“They’re vicious, and they stick together,” Trump said of Democrats. “They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst.”

Of late, Romney, a freshman GOP senator from Utah, has been vocal in his criticism of the president, with whom he has a checkered past.

“The good news, this wasn’t ‘The Untouchables’ and he didn’t grab a baseball bat,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow with the Hoover Institution.

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she was launching an impeachment process to look into Trump’s July 25 effort to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to find dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 rival, most Republicans either denounced the Democrats or demurred on questions. Romney was one of the rare Republicans on Capitol Hill to denounce Trump’s July 25 remarks as “wrong and appalling.”

Trump responded by calling the 2012 GOP nominee “pompous” on Twitter and urging others to repeat his hashtag call to #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY.

Romney also panned Trump’s decision to move U.S. troops in Syria ahead of a Turkish invasion as “a bloodstain on the annals of American history.”

Moving the G-7

Trump revisited the most nettlesome story of last week when he addressed his decision, announced by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney during a briefing last week, to host next year’s G-7 summit at the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort. Trump announced on Twitter he had changed his mind amid a quiet revolt from Republicans in Congress.

Trump admitted to no wrongdoing. “I was willing to do this for free,” he said. Previously Trump said that Doral would not see a profit from hosting the international confab but would house foreign dignitaries “at cost.”

While Democrats, including Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., seized the Doral announcement as another cause for impeachment, given the likelihood the president would profit from foreign governments in violation of the Constitution, Trump dismissed the uproar as a product of “this phony emoluments clause.”

“What other parts of the Constitution does President think are ‘phony’? Freedom of speech?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted.

No lifetime commitment

Trump defended his decision earlier in the month to move U.S. troops in Syria ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s deployment of Turkish troops into Syria.

“We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” Trump said. He also argued that it was only after “nasty” violence between the two parties that the Turks and the Kurds could agree to a temporary cease-fire.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters, “We had no obligation, if you will, to defend the Kurds against a longstanding NATO ally.”

Trump also took credit for doing far more to fight Islamic State in Syria than President Barack Obama. Under Obama, Trump said, Syria was “a mess.”

Politfact found Trump’s assessment “exaggerated.” According to the fact-finding group, IS held 60,400 square kilometers in January 2017 but zero territory by mid-2019. Under Obama, however, IS had lost a third of its peak territory.

Housing Secretary Ben Carson kicked off the Cabinet meeting with a prayer that included thanks for “Trump, who also exhibits great courage in the face of constant criticism.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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