In the days and weeks after the release of the Mueller report earlier this year, which revealed multiple examples of the President’s attempts to engage in obstructive conduct, Republican lawmakers were defiantly behind him.
And in the days after the news about President Trump’s alleged attempt to coerce the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival (Trump denied that was his purpose) — news that unleashed a stunning flood of evidence, transcripts, testimony, texts, and whistleblowers and ultimately resulted in an impeachment inquiry — the GOP circled the wagons around their President.
Those are just a few of the many embarrassing episodes from the past few years where Republican lawmakers had opportunities to condemn the indefensible, and many have chosen not to. Many, in fact, have decided to abandon their conservative principles, their ethical and constitutional obligations — not to mention their sense of common decency — to justify Trump’s odious behavior and deleterious decisions.
One issue, however, has proven surprisingly perilous for the President, a rare pressure point that has caused Republican lawmakers to summon courage and roundly condemn him: Syria.
While President Trump hopes the announcement Thursday of a 120-day ceasefire in Turkey, which Turkey says is “not a ceasefire,” might appease his many detractors, much of the damage is already done.
In the days after President Trump’s disastrous, immoral, inexplicable decision to pull US troops out of Kurdish-controlled Northern Syria, unleashing the Turkish army on an overwhelmed US ally, sending untold numbers of ISIS prisoners back into the Sahel to reorganize, and handing some of the world’s worst actors the keys to a broke-down and dangerous palace, Republicans were quick to voice their disapproval.
Even his staunchest allies, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have freely rebuked him. Graham told an NBC News reporter that he would “become President Trump’s worst nightmare” on Syria if he didn’t reverse course: “This is a defining moment for President Trump. He needs to up his game.”
It wasn’t the first time he’s drawn this reaction: When Trump first threatened to pull troops out of Syria in late 2018, defying his generals and security advisers, Republicans were stunned. Graham told reporters, “If Obama had done this, we’d be going nuts right now: how weak, how dangerous.”
He and other Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Joni Ernst, signed a letter telling Trump to reconsider.
That episode, in fact, led two of Trump’s most important figures in the Syria conflict, Gen. James Mattis and Brett H. McGurk, the American envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, to resign their posts.
And now, as a quickly spiraling disaster in Northern Syria grows worse, Republicans have come together again in a rare reproval of the President. The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to condemn Trump for pulling troops out of Syria to allow for a Turkish invasion by a vote of 354-60, with 129 members of his own party voting in favor of the measure.