A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
“That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, “I am now your adversary, not your friend.”
Graham's spokesman Kevin Bishop did not dispute media reports of Graham's comments during the meeting, adding the senator declined to comment for this story.
While he rarely criticizes the president, Graham initially called Trump's decision to pull all U.S. troops from Syria a “huge Obama-like mistake.” After meeting with Trump on Dec. 30, Graham told the New York Times that the withdrawal was “in a pause situation” as the Trump administration reevaluated how to achieve the president's goals in Syria.
At the Munich security conference, Graham pushed for having European allies send hundreds of their troops to create a buffer zone along Syria's border with Turkey. But those countries won't send any troops if the U.S. withdraws all of its forces from Syria, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), told the Washington Post.
“[Shanahan] got a chorus of voices that basically said, 'This is not going to work, there is a bipartisan resolve not to let this happen, and you need to send a message back to the president that there's a combined, unified view this is not the way to go and he should change course,' “Menendez told the Washington Post.
Task & Purpose was unable to reach Menendez for comment.
Other lawmakers were not satisfied with what NBC described as Shanahan's “talking-points approach” to answering their questions on the Syria withdrawal.”
“You just lost the Senate,” one unnamed senator was quoted by Breitbart as telling Shanahan.
A Defense Department spokesman provided Task & Purpose a brief statement in response to questions about what transpired when Shanahan met with the lawmakers in Munich.
“This was a closed-door meeting in which access was restricted to allow principals to discuss operational issues,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Buccino. “We do not discuss specific statements or exchanges inside such meetings. We would broadly characterize this as a positive, productive discussion on a wide range of global topics. The meeting ended on a positive note for all parties.”