Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said President Donald Trump “is abandoning that effort [in Syria] before it is completely finished,” and that it is the job of Congress to attempt to convince him otherwise.
“I think he is about to make a major blunder” by pulling out of Syria, Rubio told the PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff.
The president’s announcement this week that U.S. troops would be pulling out from Syria, where it has been aiding forces against Islamic State militants, surprised and outraged members of Congress, including some loyal to the president. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday offered his resignation in a blistering letter about the importance of America’s global alliances — a decision many believe was motivated by the president’s decision on Syria.
Rubio said that what concerned him the most from Mattis’ abrupt departure was what the defense secretary wrote in his letter, which seemed to “confirm our fears” about upcoming decisions facing the Trump administration.
“I’m deeply concerned that we’re about to undertake a series of foreign policy decisions that are going to undermine our security, that are going to undermine our alliances and that are going to embolden our adversaries.”
Other highlights from the interview:
- Withdrawing from Syria needs more oversight: Rubio said that while Congress can’t order the commander in chief to stay in a military operation like Syria, he thought it was important to use the role of oversight to call national security officials like the secretary of state and defense to testify on why they think it makes sense to leave Syria when ISIS has not been fully defeated.
- Trump’s decision could undermine his progress in the Middle East. Rubio said he believed the president deserves credit for the “dramatic erosion” of ISIS in the Middle East, but this decision could undermine all of the progress.“I don’t think we have enough time to talk about all the different problems that this creates,” he added.
- On the government funding impasse. Late Friday, lawmakers continued to try to negotiate a spending bill by the midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Rubio said he believes the White House should have told senators on Wednesday that the president wouldn’t sign their version of a funding bill, so that lawmakers could have spent the week trying to find a compromise. He says the current House version of the funding bill, which would boost border security funds by $5 billion, is “not unreasonable.”