(CNSNews.com) - President Donald Trump insisted Wednesday that his decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria was not giving a “green light” to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In fact, it was the opposite, he said.
During a joint White House press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Trump called out ABC White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl for his question, calling it “deceptive,” adding that it was “almost as deceptive” as ABC showing a bombing in Kentucky and misreporting it as bombings in Syria.
ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked, “I want to pick up on your comments on Turkey and Syria.Even after all you have seen, ISIS prisoners freed, all the humanitarian disaster, you don't have any regret for giving Erdogan the green light to invade?”
TRUMP: I didn't give him a green light. When you make a statement like that, it's so deceptive. Just the opposite of a green light. First of all, we had virtually no soldiers there. They were mostly gone, just a tiny little group, and they would have been in harm's way.
You have a massive army on the other side of the border, but more importantly, I didn't give them a green light, and iIf anybody saw the letter - which can be released very easily, if you would like, I can certainly release it, but I wrote a letter right after that conversation, a very powerful letter,. It was never given a green light. They’ve been wanting to do that for years, and frankly, they've been fighting for many, many years.
When you ask a question like that, it's very deceptive, John. It's almost as deceptive as you showing all of the bombings taking place in Syria, and it turned out that the bombing you showed on television took place in Kentucky. So I'm not even sure ABC apologized for that, but certainly it was a terrible thing. I’m looking at this. I’m saying, ‘Wow, that’s pretty bad,’ and it was in Kentucky, it wasn't in Syria, but I think ABC owes an apology.
KARL: Lindsey Graham just said of your remarks that you’ve made in the Oval Office that if you keep talking like that, ‘this will be a disaster worse than Obama's decision to leave Iraq.’
TRUMP: No, Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years, with thousands of soldiers and fighting other people’s wars. I want to get out of the Middle East. I think Lindsey should focus right now on Judiciary, like the Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats as I call them, because they’re doing nothing. They’re getting nothing done. They’re not getting USMCA done between Canada and the United States and Mexico. They’re getting nothing done, and I think Lindsey should focus on Judiciary.
He ought to find out about what happened with Comey, what happened with McCabe, Lisa, what happened with Peter Strzok, what happened with President Obama, what happened with Brennan. That's what Lindsey ought to focus on. That's what the people of South Carolina want him to focus on. The people of South Carolina don't want us to get into a war with Turkey, a NATO member, or with Syria.
Let them fight their own wars. They've been fighting for a thousand years. Let them fight their own wars. The people of South Carolina want to see those troops come home, and I won an election based on that. Whether it's good or bad, that's the way it is. If you look at this country, I'd be willing to bet anything, political instinct - that's what the country wants. I'm not going to get involved in a war between Turkey and Syria, especially when if you look at the Kurds, and again I say this with great respect, they're no angels.
If you look at PKK. Take a look at PKK. ISIS respects PKK. You know why? Because they're as tough or tougher than ISIS. You take a look at a lot of the things having to do-- You have to say it. Nobody wants to say it. We're making the Kurds look like they're angels. We paid a lot of money to the Kurds, tremendous amounts of money. We've given them massive fortunes. You know what? It's wonderful. They fought with us, but we paid a lot for them to fight with us.
Just so you understand, we were the ones that captured ISIS. People let some go to make us look as bad as possible. We have a situation where Turkey is taking land from Syria. Syria's not happy about it. Let them work it out. We shouldn't be over there, and you should get your accounts correct and you shouldn't be showing buildings blowing up in Kentucky and say it's Syria because that really is fake news.
KARL: You don't think the country's worried about ISIS? You mentioned earlier you think some of the countries might hate ISIS more than the United States.
TRUMP: Absolutely. Russia hates ISIS as much as the United States does. Iran hates ISIS. I mean, we're fighting a war for Russia, we're fighting a war for Iran? You look at Syria. Syria hates ISIS. We're over there killing ISIS. Don't forget, we're 7,000 miles away. So we're killing ISIS, we're 7,000 miles away. Russia’s much closer. Iran is right there, Turkey is right there. They all hate ISIS. Turkey a little bit less so, but the others very much.
Russia had a plane blown up by ISIS. Russia wants nothing to do with ISIS. Russia's tough. They can kill ISIS just as well, and they happen to be in their neighborhood. All I'm saying is this, I'm not going to lose potentially thousands and tens of thousands of American soldiers fighting a war between Turkey and Syria. Syria's not our friend. Assad is not our friend. That's the way it goes.
KARL: You said you withdrew 28 troops.
TRUMP: 28. They say it was 28. We thought it was 50 but it was about 28. Nobody injured. Listen, all accounted for, nobody injured, nobody missing. It's really nice.
KARL Look at what's happened since those troops were withdrawn since you've had that conversation with President Erdogan.
TRUMP: You know what's happened? No American soldiers have been killed. That’s what’s happened, and other people will go in, and very easy to recapture those people that probably the kurds let go to make a little bit stronger political impact. That's okay. I fully understand it, but that's the way it goes. We're bringing our soldiers back home, and we've done a great job. We were supposed to be in Syria for one month. That was 10 years ago, and we've been a police force. It's time to bring our soldiers back home. That's the way it is. We've had no soldiers injured or hurt. That's because I'm president. We're the boss, just remember that. We have the most powerful military in the world by far.