U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess sided with the White House this week in its decision to withdraw the U.S. military from northeastern Syria, the latest example of the Pilot Point Republican’s support for Donald Trump despite a bipartisan rebuke of what some say is unpredictable decision-making by the president.
Burgess stood against an overwhelming majority of the U.S. House that voted to condemn Trump’s decision to withdraw. Burgess voted no in a 354-60 vote.
Meanwhile, Burgess, who’s up for reelection in 2020, said his reason for supporting the president this time is that Congress did not vote to authorize U.S. involvement in Syria when the Obama administration sent troops into the conflict in 2014.
Though Burgess did say multiple times this week, in interviews and in prepared statements from his office, that he sympathizes with his colleagues on Capitol Hill who are rattled by the seemingly abrupt pullout, Burgess said nobody should be surprised. It’s Trump doing Trump.
“First off, the president did talk about it several months ago,” Burgess told the Denton Record-Chronicle. “We have all known that has been his strategy from the beginning.”
Asked if he was concerned about how the U.S. will be perceived by its allies and world leaders for a swift policy change, leaving behind Syrian Kurdish fighters who’ve battled alongside American service members, Burgess said sanctions on Turkey would be effective in blunting Turkey’s military advance.
“That’s going to depend on the follow-through,” Burgess said. “I think it is important to send a very powerful message to Turkey.”
On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence heralded a victory for Trump, saying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to a temporary cease-fire. In an agreement reached between the leaders of the U.S. and Turkey, the U.S. promised not to impose the sanctions at all, which Turkey’s foreign minister said was a victory for his country.
With the U.S. military out of northeastern Syria — which Burgess said was a lifesaving victory for the United States — and U.S. sanctions off the table, the looming prospect of Russia becoming more powerful in the strategic region is a main reason many have been critical of Trump’s withdrawal. Burgess’ response? He said Russia has been involved from the beginning, so nothing really changes on that end.
“The situation is significantly unsettled in that area that I don’t think anyone can predict how all this works out,” Burgess said.
Back in Denton, Mat Pruneda, one of Burgess’ most unreserved critics and who is running in the Democratic primary in hopes of facing the incumbent for House District 26, wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page this week that Burgess’ support for Trump on Syria underscores his allegiance to Trump no matter the circumstances.
“I understand there are sometimes policy disagreements people have with each other, but this is beyond policy,” Pruneda’s post reads. “This is a pathological need to be supplicant to Trump.”
In an interview on Monday on national television, North Texas’ Burgess shifted some of the blame for the Trump withdrawal onto Congress, saying to a CNN anchor that Congress did not work quickly enough weeks ago to impose economic sanctions onto Turkey. His blaming of Congress was also noted by Newsweek, which quoted the congressman as saying of the Kurdish fighters turning to the Russia-backed Syrian government, “It’s not an ideal outcome, but look, this was not just the president. The Congress had a role here and didn’t step up and fulfill it.”
Speaking to the Record-Chronicle, Burgess said, “The president told us what he was going to do before he did it.”