Ukraine and impeachment finally get some competition as Sunday-show topics this morning as Trump’s decision to stand down in northern Syria takes center stage. The lead guest is defense secretary Mark Esper, who’s set for “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday” to defend Trump’s orders. He’ll emphasize that the U.S. opposes the Turkish offensive against the Kurds, even if it’s not prepared to stand in the way. (Does he support non-military pressure on Erdogan, such as sanctions, to pressure him to retreat?) He’ll also be asked about the curious incident from Friday in which U.S. troops in one Syrian town came under Turkish artillery fire. Supposedly the Turks were given the exact location of all Americans in the area in order to avoid precisely that scenario. What happened? Is Trump’s former lead envoy in the war against ISIS correct in believing that it was no innocent mistake?
The two most interesting commentators on Trump and Syria today will each appear on “Meet the Press.” One is Rand Paul, who in 2015 went as far as to call for American support for an independent Kurdish state if the Kurds agreed to take the lead in the war against ISIS. They did take the lead, yet Paul now applauds Trump’s decision to abandon them to Erdogan’s onslaught. He’ll be asked to explain whether there’s any such thing in his mind as a too-hasty withdrawal. The other guest is James Mattis, who’s been under heavy pressure from anti-Trumpers to voice his criticisms of the president but has resisted so far. The pressure this morning will be tremendous — not only are we in the middle of an impeachment inquiry, with Trump having recently reiterated his hope that Ukraine will investigate the Bidens in front of the cameras, but it was Trump’s desire to retreat from Syria that led Mattis to resign in protest as SecDef in the first place. He’ll be asked what he thinks of the president choosing to turn his back on an ally that led the fight against ISIS’s caliphate. What will he say?
Impeachment is in the mix this morning too, of course. If it’s Sunday, it means Adam Schiff is on TV somewhere: He’ll talk to “Face the Nation” about how far Democrats might be willing to go if Rudy Giuliani and others flatly refuse to provide evidence after being subpoenaed. Meanwhile, Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee that’s investigating the Ukraine matter, will appear on “Meet the Press.” They’ll both be asked what the arrests of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman mean for the impeachment inquiry going forward. The criminal jeopardy in which Parnas and Fruman find themselves presumably gives Democrats more leverage to extract information from the two about what they and Rudy were doing in Ukraine, and maybe how much the president knew about it.
One more person to watch on Syria is Dem Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who’ll be on “Fox News Sunday.” Van Hollen is partnering with Lindsey Graham on a bill that would slap sanctions on Turkey if they don’t end their offensive against the Kurds. What are the prospects of veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress? He’ll chat about it with Chris Wallace. The full line-up is at the AP.