As President Trump’s increasingly erratic moves on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts plunge the nation into chaos, outrage is spreading rapidly. With a government shutdown in effect over the president’s border wall tantrum and the surprise announcement yesterday that Trump had unilaterally decided to withdraw troops from Syria over the objections of the Pentagon and the intelligence community, the hashtags #TrumpResign, #ResignTrump, and #TrumpResigns were all listed on the top trends on Twitter.
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A more substantial protest to troop withdrawal in Syria and the additional plans for a force reduction in Afghanistan came in the form of the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis whose letter informing Trump of his decision set out their differences quite clearly for the world to see.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being cleareyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held,” Mr. Mattis wrote. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”
Now, comes word that Mattis is not the only senior administration official willing to put principle over a paycheck to express their deep opposition to the dangerous and foolish strategic foreign policy decisions the willful and ignorant president is making.
According to an article in The Washington Post, Brett McGurk, the American envoy to the international coalition that has joined together to fight the Islamic State, has also tendered his resignation to protest Trump’s decision to abandon the battle against Isis in Syria.
McGurk’s resignation from the State Department, confirmed by a department official, means that senior officials from two major cabinet agencies have left in protest over the president’s irrational policies within the last 24 hours. While Mattis has agreed to stay on in a transition role until February, McGurk will exit before the new year.
Both Mattis and McGurk dispute Trump’s premature claim that simply because Isis has ceded much of the territory it once controlled across a swath of Syria and Iraq in its attempt to form a modern-day caliphate, the threat from the violent terrorist organization has been eliminated. McGurk contradicted that idea in statements made at a State Department briefing just a few weeks ago.
“Nobody working on these issues day to day is complacent. Nobody is declaring a mission accomplished,” the envoy said. “Defeating a physical caliphate is one phase of a much longer-term campaign.”
Critics of Trump’s blindsiding move point to the significant numbers of the group still active in Iraq and Syria —as high as 30,000 according to a recent report from the Defense Department Inspector General — and the damage the group can still inflict as an underground terrorist movement like the Al-Qaeda cells from which it evolved as compelling reasons to maintain troops on the ground for the time being.
McGurk’s departure coming on top of Mattis’ resignation has even senior Republicans questioning the president’s mental stability and erratic, purposefully contrary and non-collaborative decision-making process, with traditional staunch Trump allies like Senators Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio all publicly denouncing the decision as short-sighted and unwise.
“With the departures of folks like Secretary Mattis and Brett McGurk, you see indications that the experts felt so cut out of the process and so appalled by the decision that they simply couldn’t implement whatever the president’s vision is in a way that they could stomach, and so they chose to get out instead — in Brett’s case sooner than anticipated,” said Joshua Geltzer, Obama’s White Housesenior director of counterterrorism and now a visiting professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.
Former officials say that McGurk won’t be easy to replace.
“Anybody coming into this role will have a very difficult time being credible with our foreign partners,” said Nicholas Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Obama and Trump. “Obviously our diplomats are only as credible as the willingness of their country to live up to their commitments, and that has been undermined significantly in this case.”
While the resignations of senior members of his administration and critical tweets from Republican leaders likely won’t sway the president from trying to distract the public from the mounting evidence of his criminality by creating crises that draw media attention in other directions, it is within Congress’ power to put an end to this insanity.
Given the futility of expecting a hashtag avalanche to motivate the president to emulate the resignations of these principled officials who put their sense of patriotic duty over personal interests, it’s up to Congress to begin and complete impeachment proceedings before it’s too late.
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Original reporting by John Hudson . Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post