President Donald Trump slapped back at one of his biggest supporters-turned-gadfly on Thursday, accusing Sen. Lindsey Graham of opposing fewer military casualties by urging Trump to reconsider pulling U.S. forces out of Syria.
Since word got out that Trump had made the sudden decision to begin withdrawing troops from the conflict-riven country, backlash from both sides of the aisle has come swiftly and only intensified.
Graham has been one of the most vocal critics of Trump’s plan and has saturated any media the president is sure to see — especially Twitter and cable TV — to express his outrage. On Wednesday night, Graham said the abrupt move, in which Trump broke with his national security team, would be a “stain on the honor of the United States.”
In a news conference Thursday, Graham implored the president to reverse course and promised that Trump would incur the senator’s wrath if he did not.
“President Trump — I will help you any way I can … but because you’re a Republican, I’m not going to ignore what I believe,” Graham said. “I’m going to give you an honest evaluation. I was willing to support a Democrat if he followed sound military advice. I’m willing to fight a Republican if you don’t.”
But in a tweet hours later, Trump mused that it was “so hard to believe that Lindsey Graham would be against saving soldier lives & billions of $$$.”
Though Trump on Wednesday declared victory over ISIS in Syria, he’s largely backed off that assertion, arguing instead that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the U.S. to take on the Islamic State on its own in the region.
“Why are we fighting for our enemy, Syria, by staying & killing ISIS for them, Russia, Iran & other locals?” he tweeted Thursday morning. “Time to focus on our Country & bring our youth back home where they belong!”
Trump has defended his decision by pointing out that he has long opposed U.S. involvement in lengthy overseas conflicts. But Graham and other lawmakers have argued that a premature withdrawal from Syria will likely only exacerbate violence in the region, much as former President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq allowed the Islamic State to gain a foothold in the region.
“What I want to do is let him know that there are a lot of Republicans and Democrats who will stand with him to see this through, that bringing our troops home from Syria is the goal,” Graham said Thursday on CNN. “We’ve just got to do it smartly.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
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