Live

Watch CBSN Live

Trump had "meltdown" at White House meeting on Turkey, Democrats say

Pelosi says Trump had a "meltdown" in meeting

Washington — Top Democrats said a meeting with President Trump and top Republicans on Turkey disintegrated Wednesday, as the president doubled down on his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, a decision that has now been condemned by a bipartisan resolution in the House, and by several Republican senators. 

"What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown, sad to say," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on the White House driveway after meeting with the president. She later told reporters that she believes "we have to pray for his health because this was a very serious meltdown."

During the meeting, which lasted less than 45 minutes, the president insulted Pelosi, according to top Democrats who said the president compared ISIS to communists and suggested Pelosi would approve of that.

"He was insulting, particularly to the speaker," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "He called her a third-rate politician ... It was sort of a nasty diatribe, not focused on the facts." Pelosi later told reporters she believed Mr. Trump called her a "third grade politician." The White House confirmed that Mr. Trump in fact called Pelosi "third rate," according to the Associated Press.

However, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy contradicted that assessment, and condemned the Democratic leadership for leaving the meeting early. Although he did acknowledge the meeting got heated, McCarthy called Pelosi's behavior "unbecoming," and said that the meeting was more productive after she left.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham also condemned Pelosi in a statement, accusing her of leaving the meeting to "get in front of the cameras to whine."

"The President was measured, factual and decisive, while Speaker Pelosi's decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising," Grisham said.

The president taunted the Democrats on Twitter several hours later, tweeting a photo from the meeting and claiming Pelosi had an "unhinged meltdown."

A Democratic source familiar with what transpired said Mr. Trump also insulted former Defense Secretary James Mattis, calling him "the world's most overrated general." Mattis resigned in December over his opposition to a troop drawdown in Syria. Mr. Trump also claimed that fewer than 100 ISIS prisoners had escaped from prisons previously guarded by the Kurds, and that these fighters were "the least dangerous ones." However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he "didn't know" if those prisoners were the least dangerous.

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said in the meeting that ISIS had been "defeated, not destroyed," and warned that the terrorist network could "reconstitute."

A source familiar with the meeting told CBS News' Rebecca Kaplan that Mr. Trump came into the meeting with "arms crossed, scowling and angry." Pelosi and Hoyer left the meeting together after Mr. Trump began to insult Pelosi.

McConnell, who did not speak during the meeting, declined to comment to reporters about it.

"I didn't make any observations in the meeting. And I don't have any to make now," McConnell said.

The White House meeting came shortly after the House voted 354 to 60 to condemn Mr. Trump's decision to pull troops from northern Syria. The only votes against the resolution came from Republicans, but 129 Republicans supported the resolution.

The meeting also came after Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized Kurdish allies who fought alongside the U.S. as "not angels."

Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon before the meeting, McConnell repeatedly called the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Syria a mistake. He told CBS News he thinks he speaks for most of the members of his conference when he says that "this was a mistake and I hope that it can be repaired."

Even some of the president's staunchest allies, like South Carolina's Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, have sternly criticized the president's decision to pull a small number of troops from northern Syria. 

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are heading to Turkey Wednesday. 

View CBS News In