A leading Democrat senator asked the White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to provide a set of documents to analyse what is the true nature of the relationship between the U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez cites three specific incidents as the reason to request for documents. First, Turkey’s purchase of Russian made S-400 air defence system. The U.S. and NATO officials asked Erdoğan to give up on the system due to its interoperability issues with the U.S. made F-35, fifth generation fighter jets. The United States kicked Turkey out of the F-35 production programme after nearly 20 years of partnership in the project.
Second incident, the senator wrote in the letter, Erdoğan’s conversion of Hagia Sophia and the Kariye museum into mosque.
Finally, White House’s attempts to block the resolution that recognised the Armenian Genocide last year.
The senator wrote, “In each of these examples, President Trump’s positions or silence appear to have been swayed by his relationship with President Erdoğan, or his own personal interests in Turkey, rather focused on promoting U.S. national security interests.”
Respected American journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, and tapes released regarding the book, are also cited in the letter in which Trump was quoted as saying he gets along very well with Erdoğan, “even though you’re not supposed to because everyone says, ‘What a horrible guy.’ But, you know, for me it works out good.”
Another veteran American journalist, together with whom Woodward credited for one of the best piece of journalism reportings during the Watergate scandal in early 1970s, also reported on Trump-Erdoğan special relationship this summer. According to Carl Bernstein sources, Trump has a standing order that whenever Erdoğan calls him, he gets him on the line. And he is also the one leader Trumps speaks the most frequently on the phone.
“Despite the lack of advance notice for many of Erdoğan’s calls, full sets of contemporaneous notes from designated notetakers at the White House exist, as well as rough voice-generated computer texts of the conversations… there are also existing summaries and conversation-readouts of the President’s discussions with Erdoğan that might reinforce Bolton’s allegations against Trump in the so-called ‘Halkbank case’,” Berbstein said.
In a recent investigative report by a number of reputable news outlets, some of Trump confidants turned lobbyists and Russia-linked oligarchs credited for building up the tight relationship between the two leaders.
Menendez, asked the White House to provide information no later than Sept. 30 on a complete list of all calls, “given the grave national security interests at stake,” that have taken place between Trump and Erdoğan.
The senator asked for call dates and times, “whether they were arranged through the normal National Security Council protocols or otherwise planned in advance”, subject of each call, including whether Halkbank was discussed and the information on the listeners of each call.
A book by John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, said that Trump once promised Erdoğan that he would oust prosecutors who were investigating Halkbank. The book extensively addresses Trump’s relationship with his Turkish counterpart. “Nothing good was going to come of this renewed bromance with yet another authoritarian foreign leader,” Bolton said in the book.
He also required all background memoranda, notes, or other preparatory documents prepared for Trump ahead of said calls, as well as all contemporaneous notes by White House, National Security Council, and State Department notetakers from said calls, all voice-generated computer texts of said calls, all summaries and conversation readouts of said calls.
Meanwhile, Menendez asked O’Brien to provide information on his “detailed written recollections of all calls” between the two leaders and any statements that the national security advisor made in relation to Trump’s comments during the conversation.