With the federal government in a partial shutdown and Congress apparently nowhere near a deal to reopen it, President Trump has kept himself busy making sweeping foreign policy changes over the past week. He has announced plans to withdraw troops from both Syria and Afghanistan. Those decisions set off a wave of political upheaval both in the U.S. and abroad.
Some of the president’s closest allies in Congress, such as Lindsey Graham, have been in open revolt over the decision, and his own Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis turned in a rather scathing resignation letter.
Mattis wasn’t the only significant protest resignation: On Saturday, CBS News reported that Brett McGurk is stepping down from his position as U.S. special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. McGurk, a veteran of the Obama and Bush administrations, has led U.S. efforts on the coalition since 2015.
McGurk made no secret about what he thought of the president’s Syria decision, saying Trump’s move has “left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered.” And just days before, McGurk told reporters that defeating ISIS would be a long operation, and not to expect a quick withdrawal of troops.
In response, the president blithely tweeted: Brett who?
Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2018
At best, it can be read as a shrug from a president who doesn’t handle criticism very well. But at worst, the president is publicly admitting that he had no idea who was leading the country’s anti-ISIS efforts mere days after declaring the group has been “defeated.” If he genuinely doesn’t know McGurk, it’s further evidence that Trump isn’t listening to his advisers at all and is making foreign policy decisions for the world on a whim and a hunch.