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The announcement comes amid bipartisan backlash over his decision to greenlight the country’s incursion into northern Syria.
The president said in a statement that the U.S. will target government officials in Ankara and “any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.” The sanctions include an increase on steel tariffs from 25 percent to 50 percent and a halt in trade negotiations with Ankara.
The order leaves open the possibility of the Trump administration imposing additional sanctions on Turkey depending on its actions in Syria moving forward.
“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economic if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Trump said.
The details: The Treasury Department unveiled the sanctions later Monday. They targeted the Turkish Ministry of National Defence and Ministry of Energy and National Resources, as well as the leaders of those two agencies and the head of the Ministry of the Interior.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House that the U.S. was prepared to issue licenses so that the sanctions do not deprive the Turkish people of their energy needs.
“As we’ve warned all along, our desire is not to shut down the Turkish economy. Our desire is to see an appropriate response,” Mnuchin said. “These sanctions will be very severe on the Turkish economy. We can continue to ramp up these sanctions.”
But withdrawal still a go: Trump made clear in his statement and tweets that preceded it that he was committed to withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria, a decision that set the stage for Turkey’s offensive and one that has drawn sustained criticism from Republicans in Congress.
Moments before announcing the sanctions, Trump tweeted that the U.S. should not be responsible for defending the Syrian border or protecting the Kurds. He suggested that Syrian President Bashar Assad, China or Russia could be responsible for those roles instead.
In the sanctions announcement, Trump said a “small footprint” of U.S. forces will remain at the Tanf garrison in southern Syria “to continue to disrupt remnants of ISIS.”
“Due to Turkey’s irresponsible actions, the risk to U.S. forces in northeast Syria has reached an unacceptable level. We are also at risk of being engulfed in a broader conflict,” Esper said. “Therefore, at the president’s direction, the Department of Defense is executing a deliberate withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from northeast Syria.”
Esper had announced Sunday the withdrawal would be expanded to nearly all 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria, up from the 50 U.S. originally said would be relocating from two outposts to elsewhere in Syria.
In his Monday statement, Esper also said he will be visiting NATO next week in Brussels, where he plans “to press our other NATO allies to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response to these egregious Turkish actions.”
In Congress: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Monday that she and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) agreed on the need for a resolution overturning Trump’s decision on Syria, as well as additional sanctions against Turkey.
“Pleased to have a conversation with Senator @LindseyGrahamSC this morning. Our first order of business was to agree that we must have a bipartisan, bicameral joint resolution to overturn the President’s dangerous decision in Syria immediately,” Pelosi said in a string of tweets about the phone call.
Readouts from both Pelosi and Graham did not mention a deal on specific legislation but centered on a broader agreement that additional sanctions were needed.
Graham, in a separate tweet, said that Pelosi supports “bipartisan sanctions against Turkey’s outrages in Syria. She also believes we should show support for Kurdish allies and is concerned about the reemergence of ISIS.”
“I will be working across party lines in a bicameral fashion to draft sanctions and move quickly, appreciating President Trump’s willingness to work with the Congress. The Speaker indicated to me that time was of the essence,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he is “gravely concerned” about the U.S. strategy in Syria and warned that the withdrawal of U.S. troops would create a “power vacuum” in the region.
“I am gravely concerned by recent events in Syria and by our nation’s apparent response thus far,” McConnell said in a statement.
“Withdrawing American leadership from this pivotal region would not serve our nation’s short-, medium-, or long-term interests. It would only make a troubling situation much worse, not only for regional partners such as Israel and Jordan but for the United States as well,” he continued.
At State: The State Department has begun pulling some U.S. diplomats from northern Syria amid the Turkish military offensive, a State Department official confirmed to The Hill on Monday.
The official said personnel on the department’s Syria Transition Assistance Response Team had moved out of Syria on Sunday to other offices in the region “where they will continue to monitor programming remotely.”
“The situation on the ground is very fluid and at this time, our stabilization implementing partners are reviewing their security postures and adjusting or suspending their activities as they deem appropriate,” the official said.
The department’s Syria Transition Assistance Response Team operates in Syria and Turkey and is responsible for implementing U.S. assistance efforts to Syrians.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Monday that the U.S. government had begun evacuating a small number of diplomats from the region amid the Turkish onslaught.
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IMPEACHMENT LATEST: Fiona Hill, a former special assistant to the president for European and Russian affairs, testified before impeachment investigators Monday.
Hill entered the secured meeting room in the Capitol basement at roughly 9 a.m., an hour before the deposition was scheduled to begin. She declined reporters’ requests for comment.
Hill’s attorney, Lee Wolosky, confirmed that his client had received a subpoena and intended to answer questioning from members. She is the first former White House official to agree to cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Hill was expected to detail a “shadow foreign policy” pursued by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Gaetz tries to crash: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), top ally of Trump’s, tried to attend Hill’s deposition, but said he was asked to leave because he’s not a member of the three House committees handling the impeachment inquiry into Trump
Gaez said he was asked to leave by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), followed by the House parliamentarian ruling he had to leave.
“I went into the committee room and Mr. Schiff told me I had to leave,” the Florida Republican told reporters in the Capitol after leaving the secure room where Hill was being deposed. “And we waited for a ruling from the parliamentarian. And at that time, I had to depart.”
Gaetz said he left voluntarily.
While the House Judiciary Committee had led the charge in the Democrats’ investigation of Russian election interference, three different committees — Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs — have taken the baton since the focus has shifted to questions surrounding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Gaetz, a Judiciary Committee member, argued that not being on the panels leading the inquiry should not preclude him from sitting in on Hill’s testimony.
Up next: Sondland is set to testify Thursday in compliance with a congressional subpoena.
Sondland plans to tell Congress that a text he sent denying a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call was dictated by Trump himself, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
The Post reported that a source familiar with the ambassador’s planned testimony told the newspaper that Sondland plans to testify that Trump told him in a phone conversation to tell the acting ambassador to Ukraine that he didn’t “want a quid pro quo … didn’t want anything from Ukraine” in exchange for military aid.
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ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Association of the United States Army will host Day 2 of its annual meeting starting at 7 a.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, and Army Sgt. Major Michael Grinston will speak at 3 p.m. at the Army Senior Leaders’ Town Hall. https://bit.ly/2B0CLim
— The Hill: Mattis warns ‘ISIS will resurge’ without U.S. pressure on Syria
— The Hill: Five ways Trump’s Syria decision spells trouble
— The Hill: Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision
— The Hill: Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria
— The Hill: Opinion: Trump’s decision on Syria is nothing short of disaster
— The Hill: Opinion: Syria proves again: If you fail to articulate a policy — you fail