Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that President Donald Trump berated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during a meeting on the president’s handling of the Turkey crisis.
Schumer told reporters that Trump “was insulting to the speaker” at the meeting and that he called Pelosi a “third-rate politician.” The senator also said the meeting was more of a “diatribe” than a “dialogue.”
Pelosi, who was also at the press conference outside the White House, later clarified that Trump called her a “third-grade politician,” not a third-rate politician as Schumer stated.
Pelosi also said Trump had a “meltdown” during their meeting. According to a senior Democratic aide, Trump’s “third-grade politician” insult came during an exchange in which the president was trying to blame former President Barack Obama for the situation in Syria.
“President Obama drew a red line in the sand,” Trump told Pelosi, per the aide. “In my opinion, you are a third-grade politician.”
In response, Pelosi said she told Trump: “I wish you were a politician, Mr. President, so then you’d know the art of the possible.”
“I asked the president what his plan was to contain ISIS,” Schumer said, referencing the hundreds of self-described Islamic State supporters that escaped detention in northern Syria. “He didn’t really have one.”
According to the Democratic aide, Schumer asked Trump if his plan was to “rely on the Syrians and the Turks.” The president answered that his plan was to “keep the American people safe,” to which Pelosi responded: “That’s not a plan. That’s a goal.”
The Democrats added that Trump said some members of ISIS are “communists” and that that “might make you happy.” They said the topic of impeachment did not come up in the meeting.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump “was measured, factual and decisive, while Speaker Pelosi’s decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising,” according to PBS.
The meeting came after what Pelosi said was “a very difficult time” for Trump, referencing the House’s nonbinding resolution that opposes the president’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria. Pelosi tried to go through the basic parts of the resolution at the meeting, which the House voted in favor of 354-60 on Wednesday.
Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly condemned Trump’s decision to effectively greenlight Turkey’s invasion of the region, a move that put America’s Kurdish allies in danger, would likely lead to a resurgence of ISIS and open up the region for Russia to move in.
“That vote … probably got to the president, because he was shaken up by it. And that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it,” Pelosi said. “Again, we are proud of our men and women in uniform. Those who have been in Syria have conducted themselves in a way that makes us all very proud, and I conveyed that to the chairmen of the joint chiefs.”
According to a senior Democratic aide, Pelosi noted at the meeting that Russia has always wanted a “foothold in the Middle East,” and added that Trump’s actions in Syria have now allowed it to be possible.
“All roads with you lead to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” she reportedly told the president.
After the Democrats’ press conference, Trump tweeted out this photo of what appears to be the moment Pelosi stood up to leave the meeting.
Trump signed an executive order on Monday to impose sanctions and visa bans on top Turkish government leaders as a way to punish them for the country’s forces invading Syria, and said that a small number of U.S. troops would remain in the country.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump undermined the long-standing alliance between U.S. and Kurdish forces who have been fighting alongside each other against ISIS in Syria. The president said the Kurds are “not angels,” and that Turkey’s invasion of Syria is “not our problem,” even though Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were scheduled to travel to Turkey on Wednesday to negotiate a cease-fire.
The president’s foreign policy moves have brought bipartisan backlash from world leaders, human rights groups and lawmakers, including Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The Senate is introducing its own sanctions bill against Turkey, saying that Trump’s orders aren’t enough.
“I told the president that being from New York, as he was, we’re particularly aware of the problems that terrorism, that an organization like ISIS can create,” Schumer said. “And the fact that someone no less than General [Jim] Mattis has said that ISIS has been enhanced, that the danger of ISIS is so much greater, worries all of us.”
Mattis was Trump’s defense secretary until December 2018, when he resigned over foreign policy disagreements and his opinion that ISIS would resurge if Trump withdrew troops from the Middle East. In the meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday, Trump allegedly called Mattis the “world’s most overrated general,” a Democratic source familiar with the meeting told HuffPost.
“You know why? He wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said, according to the source. “I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.”
At the meeting, Trump told Pelosi: “I hate ISIS more than you do,” according to a senior Democratic aide. Pelosi responded that he does not know that.
The meeting reportedly continued after Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) walked out in response to Trump’s berating, with Schumer following shortly after. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a press conference after the meeting that he sees “a pattern of behavior with” Pelosi.
“She storms out of another meeting, trying to make it unproductive,” McCarthy said. “The other Democrats stayed and actually had a very productive meeting.”
This story has been updated with an aide’s account of comments during the meeting.