It was a White House meeting on Syria policy that quickly turned explosive on Wednesday when President Donald Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a ‘third-grade’ politician.
Their meeting abruptly ended with top Democrats walking out of the White House and Pelosi slamming Trump for having a ‘meltdown’.
It’s a familiar ritual, with Trump and congressional leaders meeting on official business, only to see the session devolve into colorful, name-calling commentary that’s a new kind of addition to the history books.
But this time, against the backdrop of the fast-moving impeachment inquiry, Pelosi arrived not just as the leader of the opposing party, but as the speaker who could determine Trump’s political future.
President Donald Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a ‘third-grade’ politician and she hit back saying he was having a meltdown during their White House meeting on Wednesday
The administration had called in congressional leadership to discuss the situation in Syria.
The House had just voted, 354-60, to overwhelmingly oppose the president’s announced U.S. troop withdrawal, a rare bipartisan rebuke. Trump’s action has opened the door for a Turkish military attack on Syrian Kurds who have been aligned with the U.S. in fighting the country’s long-running war.
Trump kicked off the meeting bragging about his ‘nasty’ letter to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, according to a Democrat familiar with the meeting.
In the letter, Trump warned the Turkish leader, with exclamation points, not to be ‘slaughtering’ the Kurds.
Pelosi mentioned the House vote and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, started to read the president a quote from former Defense Secretary James Mattis on the need to keep U.S. troops in Syria to prevent a resurgent of Islamic State fighters.
But Trump cut Schumer off, complaining that Mattis was ‘the world’s most overrated general. You know why? He wasn’t tough enough.’
Trump went on, ‘I captured ISIS’.
Trump also told lawmakers that ‘fewer than 100’ ISIS prisoners have escaped and they’re the ‘least dangerous ones’.
Trump published this photo from inside the meeting of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, flanked by (left) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and (right) House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saying: ‘Do you think they like me?’
Trump tweeted this picture of the empty chairs left by the three Democratic leaders when they left following the White House meeting on Wednesday
Pelosi explained to Trump that Russia has always wanted a ‘foothold in the Middle East,’ and now it has one with the U.S. withdrawal.
‘All roads with you lead to Putin,’ Pelosi said.
Then it began.
Trump said to Pelosi: ‘I hate ISIS more than you do.’
Pelosi responded: ‘You don’t know that.’
Schumer intervened at one point and said: ‘Is your plan to rely on the Syrians and the Turks?’
Trump replied: ‘Our plan is to keep the American people safe.’
Pelosi said: ‘That’s not a plan. That’s a goal.’
Trump turned to Pelosi and complained about former President Barack Obama’s ‘red line’ over Syria. According to Schumer, he then called her ‘a third-rate politician’.
At that point, the genteel Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Majority Leader, interjected, saying ‘This is not useful.’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks out of the White House with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Pelosi and Hoyer then stood and left the meeting. As they did, Trump said: ‘Goodbye, we’ll see you at the polls.’
From the White House driveway, Pelosi told reporters Trump was having some kind of ‘meltdown’ inside. She said they had to leave because Trump was unable to grasp the reality of the situation.
Later, she would insist he even botched the insult, calling her ‘third-grade’ rather than ‘third-rate.’
She said the impeachment inquiry never came up during the meeting.
Trump insisted later on Twitter that it was Pelosi who had a ‘total meltdown’, calling her ‘a very sick person!’
He also tweeted pictures from the room.
‘Do you think they like me?’ he asked mockingly about one that showed Pelosi and Schumer looking exhausted and glum.
‘Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!’ he tweeted with another.
In that photo, Pelosi can be seen, surrounded by congressional leaders and military brass around a table at the White House, finger outpointed. She is standing up, literally, to Trump.
Pelosi turned the photo into the banner on her Twitter page.
Trump slammed his former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during the meeting, saying: that he was ‘the world’s most overrated general. You know why? He wasn’t tough enough’