Donald Trump’s clash with Democratic lawmakers reached new heights when top Democrats walked out of a White House meeting and House speaker Nancy Pelosi pitied the president for having a “meltdown”.
Pelosi and other top Democrats say they walked out of the contentious White House briefing on Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria after it devolved into an insult-fest and it became clear the president had no plan to deal with a potentially revival of Isis in the Middle East.
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, told reporters Trump had called Pelosi a “third-rate politician”. He said the meeting “was not a dialogue, this was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe not focused on the facts”.
Trump’s bizarre, threatening letter to Erdoğan: ‘Don’t be a fool’
Pelosi said: “I pray for the president all the time … I think now we have to pray for his health – this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.”
She added Democrats “couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it”.
Republicans pushed back, arguing it was Pelosi who’d been the problem. “She storms out of another meeting, trying to make it unproductive,” said the House GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy.
The White House spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, called Pelosi’s action “baffling but not surprising”.
Trump himself pushed back in a series of tweets, calling Pelosi “Nervous Nancy” and the Democrats the “Do Nothing Democrats”.
(Pelosi later made one of the photos her Twitter cover photo.)
The move came on the same day the US House, which is bitterly divided over the impeachment inquiry, nonetheless banded together to overwhelmingly support a resolution condemning the president’s Syria policy by a vote of 354-60.
Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria two days after Trump suddenly announced he was withdrawing forces from the area. Trump declared on Wednesday that the US had no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters, who died by the thousands as America’s partners against Isis extremists.
Condemnation of Trump’s stance on Turkey, Syria and the Kurds was quick and severe during the day, and Pelosi said Trump appeared visibly “shaken up” after nearly two-thirds of the House GOP caucus voted in support of the resolution.
The non-binding resolution states Congress’s 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; many worry that Isis will resurge as Turkish forces attack Syrian Kurds who are holding the extremists.
The Syria briefing marked the first face-to-face interaction between Trump and Pelosi since the House speaker formally launched an impeachment inquiry against the president last month.
Trump himself has stalked out of his White House meetings in the past, including with congressional leaders in May, when he said he would no longer work with Democrats unless they dropped all Russia investigations, and last January during the partial government shutdown.
In public appearances on Wednesday, Trump said he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to bring US troops home from “endless wars” in the Middle East – casting aside criticism that a sudden US withdrawal from Syria betrays the Kurdish fighters, stains US credibility around the world, and opens an important region to Russia, which is moving in.
“We have a situation where Turkey is taking land from Syria. Syria’s not happy about it. Let them work it out,” Trump said. “They have a problem at a border. It’s not our border. We shouldn’t be losing lives over it.”