I criticize Trump a lot but in a contest of credibility between him and Erdogan I’m 100 percent confident that POTUS is telling the truth, not the sultan. Well, 90 percent. 75 percent, bare minimum.
Okay, 63 percent. I’m 63 percent confident.
In an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff to air on Tuesday night, Erdoğan said, according to a translator: “President Trump called me about a week ago about this issue. He said that he was sorry and he told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.”
The “issue” to which he refers is his security detail putting the boots to protesters during his last visit to Washington. If you’ve never seen the clip of that, stop what you’re doing and go watch now. There’s reason to believe Erdogan himself gave the order to attack. There are a lot of reactions one might imagine the president having to a bunch of foreign thugs stomping Americans on American soil. “I’m sorry” isn’t one of them.
Which is what the White House is claiming. There was no apology:
Erdogan made the claim in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff. Asked Wednesday about the Turkish leader’s comments, White House National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton offered a terse response in an email.
“It’s wrong,” Anton said…
“The topic was discussed. There was no apology. Beyond that refer you to the readout,” said Anton.
Another Trump advisor said the same thing:
Did Trump tell Erdogan sorry about the scandal involving his guards beating up US protesters? WH spox Lindsay Walters says "It's not true"
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) September 20, 2017
If that’s true then Erdogan’s put Trump in an awkward spot for his own selfish political reasons. He’s lying about the apology to impress Turks and making POTUS look intolerably weak in the process. Now the White House is forced to call him on his lie, which will add to the strain in relations between America and Turkey.
Possibly Trump expressed vague “regret” that there had been an incident at all, i.e. “it’s unfortunate that this whole thing happened,” and Erdogan’s treating that as an admission of blame. Remember, 16 people have been charged for the melee outside the Turkish embassy in May, 12 of them Turks. Erdogan was furious when the arrest warrants issued, doubtless not understanding why his guards weren’t allowed to beat his critics with impunity like they do back home. Trump needs to keep him calm with Turkey getting itchy about the looming Kurdish independence referendum. Maybe Erdogan ranted a bit during the call and Trump, just to placate him, muttered something about how it was “too bad” that they’d had this “misunderstanding” outside the embassy or whatever.
Always possible that Erdogan’s telling the truth, though. Remember, Trump called him in April to congratulate him after the referendum granting him quasi-dictatorial power passed, despite serious doubts about the legitimacy of the vote. POTUS has always had a soft spot for tough-guy autocrats and he’s winked at rough treatment of protesters at his own rallies. I wonder if he even saw the video of the brawl outside the embassy; if not, Erdogan might have told him that the protesters got aggressive and Trump, not knowing what to believe, might have reflexively said “sorry” just to smooth things over. He’s been known to equivocate about good and bad people on both sides when street battles are fought in American cities, right?
Still, 63 percent sure Trump is right here, not Erdogan. 60 percent, maybe. Definitely no less than 58.
We’ll find out in due time when the transcript of the call inevitably leaks.
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) September 19, 2017