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Rep. Hunter votes against condemning Trump on Syria, saying ‘You kick ass and you leave’

Rep. Duncan Hunter at the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, was among a small group in Congress who voted against a resolution Wednesday condemning the president’s recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

In a rare case of bipartisan opposition to President Donald Trump, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved the resolution. The vote was 354-to-60, with every Democrat and more than two-thirds of Republicans supporting the measure.

Two days after Trump announced his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from near the northeastern Syria-Turkey border, Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched an offensive against the Kurds, who have been allies in the U.S. effort to fight ISIS.

Hunter was one of 60 Republicans voting against the resolution and was one of two members of California’s 53-person delegation to take that position. The other was Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican from Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb.

Among those voting for the resolution were Democratic Representatives Susan Davis, Scott Peters, and Juan Vargas from San Diego and Rep. Mike Levin from San Juan Capistrano.

In an email, Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison said Hunter opposed the resolution for two reasons: “One: the president ran on this, to remove the U.S. from endless wars and engagements. Two: this is consistent with the Hunter Doctrine, you kick ass and you leave.”

He said American forces have defeated ISIS.

“If it is necessary for the U.S. to reengage and defeat ISIS again, we can and will,” Harrison said,”but there is no reason to have our military in this region as a permanent fixture. We will continue supporting the Kurds, like we have been, including in Northern Iraq, but at the end of the day this is a conflict between Turkey and a tribe in Northern Syria, they are not a standing nation state and the U.S. does not have a formalized agreement to remain there permanently.”

He noted that Hunter has backed a bill calling for sanctions on Turkey.

One of Hunter’s top Republican challengers for his seat representing the 50th Congressional District, former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, told the Union-Tribune he opposed the House resolution, too.

“President Trump is our Commander-in-Chief and Congress has no business undermining him with a resolution condemning his decisions,” DeMaio said in an email. “While the Washington insiders stand on the sidelines and criticize his every move, the fact remains Trump’s strategy for combating ISIS has been far more successful than the half-baked measures they’ve offered over the years.”

Other Republican candidates for the 50th did not respond to inquiries about Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria Wednesday.

Meanwhile two of the most high-profile Republicans in the House and in California’s delegation, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, condemned Trump’s decision.

And the president’s longtime ally, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, criticized it as the worst decision of Trump’s presidency.

“I will do anything I can to help him, but I will also become President Trump’s worst nightmare,” Graham told Pat Robertson on TV’s “The 700 Club” in remarks broadcast Wednesday.

“To President Trump, if you’re listening to this interview, if you remove all of our forces from Syria, you’re throwing the Kurds over, ISIS will come back on your watch, and Iran will take over and you, my friend, will be in great jeopardy of losing the election.”

Trump, in response, recommended Wednesday that Graham focus on his job leading the Senate Judiciary Committee and reminded him who is in a position to threaten whom.

“I am the boss,” Trump said.


© 2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune