In the Oct. 9 letter, which was released by the White House on Wednesday, Trump warns Turkey’s leader against invading northern Syria.
“Dear Mr. President: Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy ― and I will,” the letter begins.
Trump urges Erdogan to negotiate with Kurdish forces, then concludes by saying, “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
The letter was written the same day that the Turkish military launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria after Trump’s Oct. 6 order for U.S. troops to withdraw from the region ― a decision that was met with bipartisan condemnation and that leaves the lives of U.S.-allied Kurds in jeopardy and risks the re-emergence of ISIS.
When Trump’s letter was first reported by Fox Business, many Twitter users presumed it to be satire or a hoax, and White House journalists felt the need to clarify when tweeting it that it was, in fact, real:
Felt the need to ask WH if this is actually real and it is. pic.twitter.com/bHyIFw6cvO— Katie Rogers (@katierogers) October 16, 2019
WH confirms this letter is real: https://t.co/Y8ZOScDIsi— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 16, 2019
1. This is embarrassing beyond words.— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 16, 2019
2. It suggests the President is mentally unstable.
3. No competent staff would have let this thing leave the building.
4. Imagine the letters we *haven't* seen. https://t.co/xs28pY53fI
I am a historian of US foreign policy. I have read many, many letters from US Presidents to foreign leaders, and I have never read a letter from the US President so unhinged, so threatening, so bizarre, so completely lacking in basic etiquette. Trump is deeply, deeply unwell. https://t.co/XOOo2689sI— Brad Simpson (@bradleyrsimpson) October 16, 2019
Appearing on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” David Gergen, who has been an adviser to several presidents, said the letter “had such an adolescent quality to it” that when he first saw it, he assumed it was fake.
“When I read it, I immediately called my research assistant and said, ‘See if this is fake. I just can’t believe the White House sent this out,’” Gergen said.
“It is unprecedented to the best of my knowledge, and I do think it makes it tougher to work with Turkey, which is a member of NATO, and we need to figure out a way to get this stopped short of much more violence.”
Former presidential adviser David Gergen says President Trump's letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "had such an adolescent quality to it," adding, "I can't believe the White House sent this out. Because it is unprecedented." https://t.co/VJF0jVn3lb pic.twitter.com/yrGG1hQkHf— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) October 17, 2019
The president was said to have handed around copies of the letter in a meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, and copies were also reportedly handed out on the Senate floor.
It appears the president believed the letter had been something to be proud of, and multiple reports cited a Democratic aide from the meeting who said Trump opened the meeting by boasting about his “nasty” letter to Erdogan.
Trump opened his meeting with leaders by boasting of his "nasty" letter to Erdogan, per Dem aide familiar with meeting. Aide says that at one point Trump suggested there were communists in Syria and Democrats would like that. "I hate ISIS more than you do," Trump told Pelosi.— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) October 16, 2019
Per the same source, Trump handed out copies of the letter he'd sent to Erdogan at today's meeting in what was interpreted as an attempt to show everyone how tough he'd been.— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) October 16, 2019
Senators were passing around a printed copy of Trump's Erdogan letter on the Senate floor, per source who witnessed the scene.— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) October 16, 2019
The best/worst part is Trump probably leaked his Erdogan letter to Fox News thinking it made him look strong and smart.— Wajahat "Tough Guy" Ali (@WajahatAli) October 16, 2019
Twitter users had a field day with the correspondence, creating dramatic readings and re-enactments:
Honestly this letter from Trump to Erdogan would make more sense if it were written in crayon on lined practice paper rather than on White House letterhead pic.twitter.com/YN97BuXgqk— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) October 16, 2019
Trump’s letter to Erdogan bears uncanny resemblance to this letter my daughter wrote to my son (when she was six). pic.twitter.com/J2G741UzVQ— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) October 17, 2019
I present to you all, Trump's crazy letter as the Star Wars crawl pic.twitter.com/0ayBvJIz1F— Eric Koch (@EricDKoch) October 16, 2019
I staged a dramatic reading of Trump’s letter to Erdogan.— Myke Cole (@MykeCole) October 16, 2019
The part of Erdogan is played by my cat - Ow, Fuck. pic.twitter.com/cbTvskZFWu
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.