Menendez Quashes Erdogan’s Effort to Stifle Congress

By Asbarez | Thursday, 14 November 2019

Sen. Robert Menendez urges Senate consideration of Armenian Genocide resolution on Nov. 13

Sen. Robert Menendez urges Senate consideration of Armenian Genocide resolution on Nov. 13

In Trump’s Presence, Erdogan insults U.S. Lawmakers and Lashes Out at U.S. Policy While Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) Blocked Genocide Resolution Citing Erdogan

Moments after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey used the White House pulpit to chastise and criticize Congressional efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, took to the Senate floor to call for an immediate consideration by the Senate of the pending Armenian Genocide resolution.

During a press briefing by Erdogan and President Trump in the White House earlier Tuesday, the Turkish president criticized the U.S. House of Representatives for its October 29 passage of two resolutions—the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and severe U.S. sanctions on Turkey. Erdogan, who is visiting Washington at Trump’s invitation, decided he could dictate U.S. policy and called on the Senate to not consider the bill.

Menendez, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee challenged the visiting Turkish leader’s decision to insert himself in American policy making and called on the senate to unanimously adopt S.Res. 150.

“I ask unanimous consent that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee be discharged from further consideration of S. RES. 150 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration. I further ask that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be considered upon — considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate,” said Menendez.

Opposing the measure was South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who, in his remarks, cited his recent meeting with Erdogan as the reason to not pass the Senate resolution saying that in view of the current crisis in Syria, as well as discussions with Turkey on its purchase of Russian weapons, the Senate should not move forward with the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

“My objection would not be to sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it. I just met with President Erdogan and President Trump about the problems we face in Syria by the military incursion by Turkey,” said Graham.

“I do hope that Turkey and Armenia can come together and deal with this problem. Given where we’re at in Syria and some hope that maybe we can resolve things, I object not because of the past, but because of the future,” added Graham, who clearly had given in to Erdogan.

Interestingly, earlier in the day, Graham, who has been a vocal opponent of Turkey, criticized Erdogan.

“I’ve never had an opportunity like this before. I appreciate it. The purpose of this meeting is to have an American civics lesson for our friends in Turkey. And there’s a pony in there somewhere if we can find it,” Graham reportedly said in the Oval Office during the meeting with Erdogan.

“Are we so afraid to stand up to history and the truth? Are we so afraid about Turkey?” asked Menendez in response to Graham’s opposition.

“Who’s the superpower? Who’s the superpower? I’m beginning to wonder. Because every time Turkey threatens to do something, we cower. Well, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t get to dictate the views of the Congress of the United States. They don’t get to dictate the views of this Senate,” added Menendez, saying the will prick the conscience of the Senate and to ultimately reveal who supports recognizing the Armenian Genocide and who does not? Otherwise these words about never again, they’re just hollow.”

“As much as he might like – as much President Trump may have led him to believe – Recep Erdogan doesn’t get a vote in the U.S. Senate,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian as Erdogan was attacking the United States and its legislature.

“The ANCA hails Sen. Menendez’s call for immediate passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution – a powerful rebuke to Erdogan’s century-long obstruction of justice,” said Hamparian.

“It’s clear – in the wake of near-unanimous, bipartisan U.S. House passage H.Res.296 – that the Senate would also pass this resolution overwhelmingly. Senator Graham knows this and – understanding that this would further isolate the Trump Administration – is blocking his colleagues from an up-or-down vote on this measure. If Senator Graham has a problem with S.Res.150 he should vote against it, not prevent his Senate colleagues from voting their conscience on this human rights measure,” added Hamparian.

Trump-Erdogan Press Conference
It was an uncomfortable press conference to watch as who said he is “a big fan of the president [Erdogan]” and called him “his great friend” stood idly as the Turkish president lashed out at Congress for recognizing the Armenian Genocide and told reporters and he returned back a letter in which Trump urged Erdogan not to attack Syria.

“We have nothing to hide,” Erdogan said of the Armenian Genocide repeating his stale arguments to establish a historical commission to assess the events of 1915.

“I believe the Senate will take the United States out of this vicious cycle,” he sniped, referring to the pending Armenian Genocide resolution in the Senate and hinting that Congress was sticking its nose where it did not belong.

“It very very complex,” said Trump referring to Syria, adding that there were issues that went back centuries in that region.

ANCA-Led Protest Draws Large Crowd
Trump and Erdogan met for some several hours at the White House prior to the press conference, with Armenian, Hellenic, Kurdish, and religious freedom groups protesting throughout that time.

The protest was organized by the ANCA, in cooperation with the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), Hellenic American Leadership Council, American Hellenic Institute, In Defense of Christians, Armenian Youth Federation and American Rojava Center for Democracy – all calling attention to a wide array Turkish transgressions from Ankara’s recent invasion of northern Syria to its ongoing crackdown against Kurdish communities, occupation of Cyprus, oppression of Christian and other minority communities, crushing of dissent, jailing of journalists, blockading of Armenia, and denial of the Genocide committed against the Armenian, Greek, Assyrian/Syriac/Chaldean, and Maronite nations.

A scene from the ANCA-led protest against the Erdogan-Trump meeting in front of the White House on Nov. 13

A scene from the ANCA-led protest against the Erdogan-Trump meeting in front of the White House on Nov. 13

“Two years ago, Erdogan’s visit to DC was defined by foreign goons attacking and beating US citizens on American soil,” said AYF Washington Ani Chapter’s Nareg Kuyumjian. “Today, the foreign dictator was welcomed by hundreds of protesters organized by the AYF in coalition with a broad diversity of allies rallying around the permanent recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the House with H.Res.296. We will continue to build a movement around the momentum created with the passing of H.Res.296 to put an end to authoritarian oppression and genocide around the world.”

Hellenic American Leadership Council Executive Director Endy Zemenides noted “As an American, I am very discouraged that President Trump would set aside both American interests and values to roll out the red carpet for Erdogan. At the same time, I am encouraged by the diverse alliance of Americans who combined forces to protest in favor of those values and interests.”

U.S. Secret Service and Metropolitan Police were are high alert following the May, 2017, Erdogan-ordered attack on peaceful protesters across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, leaving many on the ground bleeding during most of the attack and send a dozen to the hospital. One Turkish American attempted to instigate a riot during the protest – flashing the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves sign – but was quickly pushed out by police. Armenian and Greek groups went to Sheridan Circle, committed to standing up for First Amendment rights of peace protesters.

“In Defense of Christians joined the protests today to send a clear message to Turkish President Erdogan that we will not sit by and allow him to commit atrocities against Christians and Yazidis in Northeast Syria,” said IDC Executive Director Peter Burns. “Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide was only the beginning. We hope that he received the same message from the Trump Administration during their meetings today,” noted Burns.