WASHINGTON (AP) — Washing his hands of Syria, President Donald Trump declared Wednesday the United States has no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as America's partners against IS extremists. Hours later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats walked out of a meeting at the White House, accusing him of having a "meltdown," calling her a "third-grade politician" and having no plan to deal with a revived Islamic State group.
Condemnation of Trump's stance on Turkey, Syria and the Kurds was quick and severe during the day, not only from Democrats but from Republicans who have been staunch supporters on virtually all issues.
The House, bitterly divided over the Trump impeachment inquiry, banded together for an overwhelming 354-60 denunciation of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Many lawmakers expressed worry that it may lead to revival of IS as well as Russian presence and influence in the area, in addition to the slaughter of many Kurds.
At the White House, Trump said the United States has no business in the region — and not to worry about the Kurdish fighters.
"They know how to fight," he said. "And by the way, they're no angels."
After the House condemnation vote, congressional leaders of both parties went to the White house for a briefing, which grew contentious, with Trump and Pelosi trading jabs. Democrats said they walked out when the meeting devolved into an insult-fest.
"What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown," Pelosi told reporters, saying Trump appeared visibly "shaken up" over the House vote.
"We couldn't continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it," she said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump for not having an adequate plan to deal with IS fighters who have been held by the Kurds. He said the meeting "was not a dialogue; this was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe not focused on the facts."
Republicans said it was Pelosi who was the problem. "She storms out of another meeting, trying to make it unproductive," said House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham called Pelosi's action "baffling but not surprising." She said the speaker "had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues."
Trump himself has stalked out of his White House meetings with congressional leaders — in May, saying he would no longer work with Democrats unless they dropped all Russia investigations, and in January during the partial government shutdown.
Separately Wednesday, a letter was disclosed in which he cajoled and threatened Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, urging him to act in "the right and humane way" in Syria.
He started on a positive note, suggesting they "work out a good deal," but then threatened crippling economic sanctions and concluded that the world "will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!"
In public appearances Wednesday, Trump said he was fulfilling a campaign promise to bring U.S. troops home from "endless wars" in the Middle East — casting aside criticism that a sudden withdrawal from Syria betrays the Kurdish fighters, stains U.S. credibility around the world and opens an important region to Russia, which is moving in.