In the Oct. 9 letter, which was released by the White House on Wednesday, Trump warns Turkey’s leader against invading northern Syria.
“Dear Mr. President: Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy ― and I will,” the letter begins.
Trump urges Erdogan to negotiate with Kurdish forces, then concludes by saying, “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
The letter was written the same day that the Turkish military launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria after Trump’s Oct. 6 order for U.S. troops to withdraw from the region ― a decision that was met with bipartisan condemnation and that leaves the lives of U.S.-allied Kurds in jeopardy and risks the re-emergence of ISIS.
When Trump’s letter was first reported by Fox Business, many Twitter users presumed it to be satire or a hoax, and White House journalists felt the need to clarify when tweeting it that it was, in fact, real:
Appearing on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” David Gergen, who has been an adviser to several presidents, said the letter “had such an adolescent quality to it” that when he first saw it, he assumed it was fake.
“When I read it, I immediately called my research assistant and said, ‘See if this is fake. I just can’t believe the White House sent this out,’” Gergen said.
“It is unprecedented to the best of my knowledge, and I do think it makes it tougher to work with Turkey, which is a member of NATO, and we need to figure out a way to get this stopped short of much more violence.”
The president was said to have handed around copies of the letter in a meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, and copies were also reportedly handed out on the Senate floor.
It appears the president believed the letter had been something to be proud of, and multiple reports cited a Democratic aide from the meeting who said Trump opened the meeting by boasting about his “nasty” letter to Erdogan.
Twitter users had a field day with the correspondence, creating dramatic readings and re-enactments: