Transcript: Representative Adam Kinzinger on "Face the Nation," October 13, 2019

GOP rep slams Trump's "weak" retreat from Syria

The following is a transcript of an interview with Representative Adam Kinzinger that aired Sunday, October 13, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: But we want to go now to Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He is in Ottawa, Illinois. Good morning to you, Congressman.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You wanted the president to rethink his position. We know from Secretary Esper this decision to pull out was made last night. What is the implication going to be?

REP. KINZINGER: Well it's going to be terrible and you know the secretary is doing his job and you know he has to follow orders. But the reality we all know that if there were still those 30 or 40 soldiers in that part of Syria that Turkey wouldn't attack. We actually had a pretty good kind of joint security situation being setup to de-escalate that area. In fact, pulling back those 50 troops or whatever it was has given license to Turkey and then now I think pulling out the remaining thousand in Syria is simply an excuse to get out. Look at it this way. You hear the president and people like Rand Paul talk about endless wars all the time and it's kitschy, but actually we were preventing an endless war. An- and that actually commenced on Sunday now a week ago and so it's really depressing. And you know, for me as a guy that served in the military and really, got into politics because I believe in the role America plays, to see this yet again you know leaving an ally behind, abandoning people that we frankly told that we were gonna be with is disheartening, depressing. Frankly it's weak and I don't see how it follows through on the president's promise, his biggest promise in the campaign to defeat ISIS because I think it is going to resurge. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the president putting U.S. national security at risk?

REP. KINZINGER: Yes, I certainly I- I think so yeah. And I mean look- look at what's going to happen out of here. Now we have another group that now believes they can't rely on the United States. Th- there's a lot of complication in the Kurd situation and I've seen all this Russian misinformation now on the Internet that's being picked up by some of these political blogs that these are the bad Kurds and there's good Kurds. Well look, there are Kurds that aren't- aren't the best folks in the world. But there are also people that we have chosen to equip to fight ISIS that we were with. We had created a situation in which there was stability and out of an impulsive decision I think that the president made- otherwise it was cold and calculated because he'd been thinking about it for a while and nobody else knew. The Kurds found out on Twitter for goodness sakes. We have left them to the wolves. And- and the message this is sending to our allies around the world I think is- is really going to be bad.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what are Republicans in Congress going to do about it?  Are you completely powerless?

REP. KINZINGER: No we're not powerless. I mean the president has a lot of power though and I said that no matter- even under President Obama, I said the president's got a lot of power that's in the Constitution. The things we can do we are going to do. We've got a resolution of condemnation I think next week, as well as some significant sanctions. The president tweeted about sanctions this morning but I think he needs to make sure he's following through on them and they're not going to be surface sanctions. They're going to really hit Turkey hard. And then the other thing we can do is be outspoken about this. The American people you know who want strength and leadership, who were promised by this president that we would defeat ISIS, deserve to hear the truth and not these things like end with- endless war that you hear some on the kind of libertarian spectum- spectrum talk about. There is now a war that's been commenced in Syria because we have pulled 50 troops out from being able to prevent that war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard the secretary acknowledge war crimes. The State Department has said they're afraid of ethnic cleansing. So looking at all of that, aren't sanctions just punitive? They're not preventative. 

REP. KINZINGER: Yeah. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a responsibility here to do something? 

REP. KINZINGER: Yeah. Well I think there is. I think it is not necessarily going to prevent Turkey from doing what they're doing. This has been Turkey's dream for a long time. And the president basically gave the green light to do it. They're going to be important. But I think we also have to continue to say this which is when the United States backs away, chaos follows through. And we had a situation of stability there. It wasn't perfect. Erdoğan probably didn't want to have to do joint patrols with the U.S.--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

REP. KINZINGER: --because he wanted to attack. But we're the United States of America and we can prevent things like that. We have to remember the strength we have and not just try to run away from every conflict we could have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the Wall Street Journal had an editorial that was pretty strong here in sharply criticizing the president quote "for his habit of impulsive judgment." And they argued that his judgment can be so reckless that many voters who took a risk on him the first time will ask if he's worth a second gamble in 2020. "Impeachment won't defeat Donald Trump in 2020, but Donald Trump might." Does this make you question whether you're going to support President Trump in 2020?

REP. KINZINGER: Well, I'm- I'm not going to go there and question whether I'm going to support, but it does, you know- I think the president needs to be aware that in- and I know Republican base voters. I represent both Republicans and Democrats. I have a Republican district. One of the things they loved about Donald Trump is- they're like he says what he means. He's tough. He's taken the fight to ISIS and I'm having a hard time seeing how basically pulling out of Syria- and it's not just about protecting the Kurds. It's about getting intel and fighting ISIS. And I don't see how that's gonna be a position of strength. So we'll have to see how 2020 plays out on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes no, should Erdoğan come to the White House next month as planned?

REP. KINZINGER: No, absolutely not. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you Congressman.