Sen. Graham talks to Trump about Syria, says ‘the president’s taking this really seriously’ |
Politics Election

Sen. Graham talks to Trump about Syria, says ‘the president’s taking this really seriously’

The Washington Post
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says President Trump swayed him on the administration’s troop drawdown in Syria.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Sunday abruptly walked back his criticism of President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, a move that he had derided as “an Obama-like mistake.”

Graham, a onetime Trump critic who has since become one of the president’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill, made the remarks to reporters after lunch with Trump at the White House on Sunday afternoon.

“We had a great lunch,” Graham said. “We talked about Syria. He told me some things I didn’t know that made me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria.”

He described Trump’s decision as “a pause situation” rather than a withdrawal, telling reporters, “I think the president’s taking this really seriously.”

Earlier this month, the White House announced that the United States will move quickly to withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria, a decision that defied the warnings of Trump’s top advisers.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump tweeted at the time, referring to the Islamic State militant group using an alternative acronym.

In the wake of the announcement, Graham issued a scathing statement in which he denounced the decision as “an Obama-like mistake made by the Trump Administration.”

“While American patience in confronting radical Islam may wane, the radical Islamists’ passion to kill Americans and our allies never wavers,” Graham said.

He went even further in a Senate floor speech, saying Trump’s decision went “against sound military advice,” and calling the president’s claim about the defeat of the Islamic State “fake news.”

“To those who say we have defeated ISIS in Syria, that is an inaccurate statement,” Graham said. He added that Americans would be less safe in the wake of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria and that he did not support efforts to “outsource our national security to any foreign power.”

Ahead of Sunday’s lunch, Graham told CNN that one goal of his meeting with Trump would be to try to persuade the president to reconsider his withdrawal decision.

“I’m going to ask him to sit down with his generals and reconsider how to do this,” Graham said. “Slow this down. Make sure that we get it right. Make sure ISIS never comes back. Don’t turn Syria over to the Iranians. That’s a nightmare for Israel.”

But after emerging from the White House, Graham appeared to have come around to Trump’s point of view, although he maintained that ISIS had yet to be defeated.

“He promised to destroy ISIS,” Graham said. “He’s going to keep that promise. We’re not there yet. But as I said today, we’re inside the 10-yard line, and the president understands the need to finish the job.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.