Trump 'Unleashed the Gates of Hell' by Green-Lighting Turkey's Syria Invasion, Senator Menendez Says

Senator Bob Menendez strongly criticized Donald Trump on Thursday, arguing that the president had "unleashed the gates of hell" by giving the green light to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to invade Syria.

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, made the comment in an interview with CNN, during which he discussed Trump's combative interaction with Democratic leaders during a White House meeting on Wednesday. He said that the president appeared not to have "a grasp of the issues" involved with his controversial decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria.

After being asked about a letter written by Trump to Erdogan, which was shown to Democrats in the meeting, Menendez described the note as "one heck of an interesting letter." He then argued that the president appeared to be trying to "cover" his "backside" in the foreign policy controversy.

"I did not see a person who was of the temperament and had a grasp of the issues that would ultimately show... a person totally in control," says @SenatorMenendez about what Democrats have dubbed President Trump's "meltdown" during a White House meeting.

— New Day (@NewDay) October 17, 2019

"He [Trump] saw the reaction from Congress and from others in the foreign policy and national security establishment have a huge backlash," the Democratic lawmaker said. "And he wanted to, in essence, show that he had a different calculation. But this letter is only after you unleashed the gates of hell at the end of the day, and gave the green light to Turkey."

Trump's letter to Erdogan, which has been described as "bizarre," threatened to destroy Turkey's economy if the foreign leader did not "make a deal" regarding Syria and the Kurds.

"History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way," the president wrote. "It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen."

"Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!" Trump finished the letter, adding: "I will call you later."

The BBC reported Thursday that Erdogan simply trashed the letter, and threw it "in the bin." Turkey launched its invasion of northern Syria on October 9, the same day the letter was drafted, following a phone call last Sunday between Trump and his counterpart in Ankara. A source with Trump's National Security Council told Newsweek that the president got "rolled" during the conversation.

"President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something," the source said.

This picture taken on October 17 from the Turkish side of the border with Syria in the Ceylanpinar district city of Sanliurfa shows smoke and fire rising from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, during the Turkish offensive against Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty

After Trump ordered the U.S. troops to withdraw, a bipartisan chorus of Washington lawmakers rose up to rail against the decision. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is typically a close ally of the president, has been one of the harshest critics of Trump's decision. Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn the president's withdrawal as well.

Critics argue that the move will embolden the Islamic State (ISIS) as well as U.S. foes Iran and Russia. Republicans and Democrats have expressed significant concern for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whom the U.S. had been supporting in the fight against ISIS. Turkey has long been in conflict with the Kurds, and its forces quickly began targeting the group. As a result, the Kurds turned to ally themselves with the Syrian government, which the U.S. also considers an enemy. In the chaos surrounding the changing power dynamics, ISIS fighters and hundreds of ISIS affiliates have also managed to escape from detention camps in the days following the U.S. withdrawal and Turkey's invasion.

"This is a complete and utter national security disaster in the making and I hope President Trump will adjust his thinking," Graham posted to Twitter on Wednesday.