GOP Sens. Lindsay Graham, Jim Rish, Ted Cruz, Johnny Ernst and Rick Scott all attended the candid and tense meeting that lasted about 90 minutes. Reporters were recently invited to see lawmakers raise their foreign policy concerns with Erdogan – in particular, the sale of Russian weapons in Turkey and Turkey's conflicts with the Kurds.
Senators "made the most of the conversations" with Trump "playing a traffic cop," a GOP source said. Senators have warned that Turkey will face US sanctions unless it cancels the course of buying a Russian missile defense system, said a senior administration official and two sources familiar with the matter.
Trump has invited five senators ̵
"We saw him as a better cop, a bad cop," said one source at the meeting, noting that the group showed Erdogan that "Trump's hands were tied" because the Senate would not give Turkey an F- 35 if they don't get rid of the S-400.
"Insofar as Erdogan now understands the leverage and power that the Senate has
To demonstrate this united front, Homeland Security Advisor Robert O & # 39; Brian had a conversation with the five Republican senators before meeting them. on the same page on focusing on the S-400 issue, said two administration officials and a Republican source in the Senate.
Trump also warned Erdogan in his letter this week that sanctions would come if Turkey uses the S-400 system, but a source familiar with in the meeting, said senators were more outspoken in Wed.
The threat of sanctions was at the center of the Oval Cabinet meeting, but Republican senators also made candid and sometimes heated criticisms of Erdogan on other issues.
Glasen a critic of Turkey's invasion of Syria, at one point engaging in an uproar s back ahead with Erdogan on the issue and the fate of Kurdish allies of the United States, a senior administration official and two familiar sources said.
Graham "is quite aggressive about Syria," one source said.
Scott also raised serious questions about Turkey's continued NATO membership as it becomes increasingly cozy with Russia.
Cruz said in a statement that he was pushing Erdogan into the S-400 system and attacking the Kurds.
"I have always crippled Turkey as an ally – a deeply troubled ally, but still an ally in a very troubled region of the world. I went to the White House today to tell President Erdogan just that," he said, calling the Turkish attacks against Kurds "absolutely unacceptable" and said he "made it clear" to the Turkish leader that the US would not sell F-35 aircraft to Turkey "as long as Turkey continues to supply or deploy Russia's S-400 air defense system. "
Trump invited these senators, knowing that they would be honest in their views. He wanted a frank discussion and wanted legislators to voice their concerns, said one source familiar with the talks, adding that Trump believed it was important to maintain a positive relationship with Erdogan and did not worry that other U.S. officials, such as those legislators , they feel different.
A senior administration official first said Trump raised the possibility of inviting senators to meet with Erdogan last week. A source familiar with the matter said it allows Trump to avoid confronting Erdogan directly on the S-400 while still raising official concerns.