Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Lack Of A Strategy In Syria, The Trump Administration’s Refusal To Brief Congress On Any Plan To Fix The Mess It Created In Syria, And Special Senate Democratic Caucus Meeting Today With Brett McGurk, Former U.S. Government Envoy For The Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS

October 23, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling for the Senate to take up and pass the bipartisan House-passed resolution condemning the president’s decision to abandon the U.S.’s Kurdish allies in Syria, a vote on which was blocked by Senate Republicans yesterday. Senator Schumer also revealed that Senate Democrats will hold a special Democratic Caucus meeting today with the former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS under President Obama and President Trump, Brett McGurk, to discuss President Trump’s disastrous decision to abruptly pull out of Syria and how it has led to a resurgence of ISIS in the region. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, three weeks ago, a small number of U.S. Special Forces were working with our Syrian Kurdish partners to conduct operations against ISIS and hold more than 10,000 detainees – many of them hardened ISIS fighters. It was the product of half a decade of hard work by American and Coalition forces and the Kurds to degrade ISIS, to put them on the run, stabilize a post-conflict region.

Today, only three weeks later, as American troops continue their withdrawal from our bases in northern Syria at the president’s orders, President Putin and President Erdogan have announced a plan to establish Russian and Turkish control of a region that was once patrolled by American and Kurdish forces. Our partners, the Syrian Kurds, have been killed and wounded in Erdogan’s invasion and forced to leave their homes in droves. And most importantly, the upper hand we once held over ISIS has been eroded.

We don’t know how many ISIS detainees have escaped from detention facilities or where they’ve gone, and there seems to be no articulable plan on how to get them back. In the blink of an eye, President Trump has undone over five years of progress against the Islamic State.

Three weeks after first announcing the troop withdrawal, the president does not seem to have a clear strategy for securing the enduring defeat of ISIS and fixing the mess he’s created in Syria. Secretary of State Pompeo does not have a clear strategy, Secretary of Defense Esper does not have a clear strategy. Every day it seems like we are going in a completely different direction. One day, reports indicate the administration was considering a residual force in eastern Syria; the next, reports said the administration planned to target ISIS from Iraq; the next minute, reports said Iraq won’t allow our forces to do that.

What is the strategy here? America’s security is at risk. ISIS is dangerous. ISIS is escaping. How will the administration continue to bring the fight to ISIS? What will the president do to prevent Russian and Turkish aggression and the potential slaughter of our allies and friends the Kurds? When will the Administration present its strategy to Congress?

We need answers to these questions right away. But shockingly, the administration’s top officials – Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Esper –  have now canceled two scheduled briefings with the Senate and there’s no new time on the calendar. Secretary of State Pompeo apparently had time to speak to the Heritage Foundation yesterday, which is four blocks away from the Capitol, but he doesn’t have time to come to Congress? Not even to brief us on Syria?

Secretary Pompeo is derelict in his duty. He has an obligation come here. It’s not a question of timing, he spoke four blocks away at the Heritage Foundation. He’s ducking. We need answers. And if they don’t have answers, we need to have a question-and-answer, a dialogue, and maybe that’ll push them to some answers. It’s too dangerous for America to sit here and do nothing, to run and hide, as Secretary Pompeo is now doing.

Today, Senate Democrats are holding a special caucus to hear from Brett McGurk, the former government envoy in charge of countering ISIS under both Presidents Obama and Trump. While I expect Mr. McGurk’s presentation to be helpful to our caucus, it does not replace the need for Trump administration and its officials to come to Congress and explain their strategy.

And at the same time, we should send a message to the president that both parties oppose his policy in Syria. The House has passed such a resolution on an overwhelming bipartisan vote, including Republican leaders like Leader McCarthy, Representative Scalise, Representative Cheney. I have asked the Senate twice now to take up the House resolution, only to be blocked by a single Republican member. I continue to believe that the quickest and most powerful way to convince the president that he’s on the wrong track is for Congress to put a bipartisan, joint resolution on his desk saying so. That’s what the House resolution does, and the Senate should take it up and pass it.

We all know that it’s hard to shake the president from his thoughts and ideas, even when they’re creating such disaster. His ego is enormous. But the one thing that can do it is our Republican colleagues joining us in a resolution that reaches his desk. When Republican colleagues criticized him about Doral, he backed off. It’s the only thing that can get him to change and America’s at risk.

Why aren’t our Republican colleagues stepping forward? Do they care more about protecting President Trump than protecting America? I hope not. I yield the floor.

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