White House budget director Mick Mulvaney on Sunday admitted President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw American troops from Syria is extremely unpopular with lawmakers and Defense Department officials. But that’s OK, because “ordinary” people love it, he said without evidence.
During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked Mulvaney whose advice Trump listens to if he ignores the recommendations of his national security team.
“The president listens to a bunch of different people, including the people who ... live here and the ordinary Americans,” responded Mulvaney, who will assume the role of acting White House chief of staff in January.
“We recognize the fact that this is unpopular within the Beltway,” he added. “We recognize the fact that it’s unpopular within the Defense Department. It’s very popular with ordinary American people.”
Wallace interrupted, “With all due respect to democracy ... do they really know what the stakes are of pulling U.S. troops out and leaving the Syrian defense force to the Turkish slaughter, and what the impact is going to be on Iran? I mean, really, we’re going to make this a plebiscite?”
Mulvaney dismissed the suggestion that the average American knows enough to advise Trump on foreign policy, despite suggesting just that moments earlier.
“Ordinary Americans have no idea about those things,” Mulvaney said. “They elect a president so that he does.”
Mulvaney’s claim that Americans support the withdrawal appears at odds with several public opinion polls, which give little indication the public wants U.S. military action against the self-described Islamic State in Syria to wind down, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
A July poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 57 percent of Americans overall (including 69 percent of Republicans) favored using American troops “to fight against violent Islamic extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.”
Trump’s announcement Wednesday that ISIS had been defeated in Syria and that he planned to “immediately” withdraw U.S. troops from the war-torn country startled top government officials, including some of the president’s closest allies.
“With all due respect, ISIS is not defeated in Syria, Iraq, and after just returning from visiting there ― certainly not Afghanistan,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a onetime Trump critic turned frequent cheerleader.
The president’s abrupt decision went against the recommendations of several top military and defense officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who opposed the move, announced his resignation a day later. Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State group, also resigned in protest.
But Mulvaney on Sunday shrugged off the resounding condemnation of Trump’s Syria withdrawal. “The fact that his decision is not popular with some people is more their problem than his,” he said.
Watch the exchange below: