The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee said Thursday that a rancorous White House meeting on Syria – during which top Democrats walked out after President Donald Trump began insulting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – was “belligerent from the get-go.”
“The meeting started off with the President walking in and slamming down his files on the table, suggesting that this was a meeting he agreed to, but that we had asked for. No one had asked for the meeting. I got an invitation from the White House. It wasn’t at my solicitation or the speaker’s or the Democratic leader of the Senate. And it was belligerent from the get-go,” Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who was present at the meeting, said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday.
Menendez said Pelosi was “restrained” during the meeting until Trump “continued to belittle her and Democrats in general.”
According to Pelosi, Trump had called her a “third-grade politician.”
“I did not see a person who was of the temperament and had a grasp of the issues that would ultimately inure to a sense of feeling that there was a person totally in control. And what I saw yesterday, I have not seen in 27 years in serving under four different presidents,” Menendez told CNN on Thursday.
Menendez said he’s not questioning Trump’s mental capacity for the job of the presidency.
“I am simply saying that someone who is the commander in chief needs to bring our country together in common cause,” Menendez said, adding that a person who “acts the way (Trump) acts is not something that I want to see in the President of the United States.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham described the meeting differently, saying in a statement on Wednesday that Trump was “measured” and “decisive” while Pelosi “had no intention of listening.”
“The President was measured, factual and decisive, while Speaker Pelosi’s decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising,” Grisham said. “She had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues. While Democratic leadership chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine, everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on behalf of this country.”
Late Wednesday, Trump tweeted a series of photos from the meeting along with insults. In one tweet, he called Pelosi “a very sick person” and suggested that she “had a total meltdown.”
During the meeting, Trump called his former Defense Secretary James Mattis “the world’s most overrated general,” after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had raised Mattis’ warning that ISIS would have a resurgence if the US does not keep the pressure on in Syria, a Democratic source familiar told CNN.
Trump also handed copies of a letter he sent to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and asked him to pass them around to the other members.
CNN’s Clare Foran, Lauren Fox, Manu Raju and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.