House lawmakers called on the Trump administration Thursday to punish Turkey for the violence that Turkish security forces visited upon protesters in Washington this month, including blocking future visits to the U.S. by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"We have a message for [Erdogan]: We don't need people like you visiting the United States anymore," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee for Europe, said during a hearing Thursday. "Erdogan should never again be invited to the United States."
Erdogan outraged U.S. leaders by dispatching members of his security detail to attack protesters against his regime who had assembled outside the Turkish embassy in D.C. during his visit to meet President Trump. Turkey is a critical NATO ally, but the strategic importance of the relationship isn't deterring lawmakers from pushing Trump to make Erdogan regret the crackdown.
"This was an attack on American sovereignty," Calif. Rep. Brad Sherman, a senior Democrat on the committee, said during the hearing. "Quasi-military forces of a foreign nation beat and attacked Americans on American soil. This was deliberate, because Erdogan believes that this helps him politically back in Turkey. We have to demonstrate to the world that aggression on American soil is not going to pay off."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's team summoned the Turkish ambassador to State Department for a formal rebuke, but Erdogan's government didn't show contrition. Instead, they responded by summoning the U.S. ambassador to the Turkish Foreign Ministry for a dressing-down of their own.
"A written and verbal protest was delivered due to the aggressive and unprofessional actions taken, contrary to diplomatic rules and practices, by U.S. security personnel towards the close protection team [of the Turkish ambassador]," the Foreign Ministry said.
The tete-a-tete could complicate an already tense relationship between two NATO allies. Erdogan has blamed the United States for a failed coup attempt last year. Turkish officials are also angry that the Obama and Trump administrations are working with a group of Syrian Kurds — YPG, which has ties to another group Turkey views as terrorists — in the fight against ISIS.
Sherman wants to expel the Turkish ambassador for lying about American personnel, and he has a list of proposals to compel a personal apology from Erdogan. His list starts with spurning any Turkish concerns about the YPG. He also wants the Trump administration to recognize the Armenian genocide, in which the Ottoman Empire killed about 1.5 million Armenians over an eight-year period.
On the financial side, Sherman wants to bar Americans from purchasing Turkish government debt "until we get a formal apology from Erdogan."
"I realize such an apology might be politically difficult for him," Sherman said. "That's the point. We have to illustrate this or we will have other leaders attacking Americans both in their country or in ours for their political reasons."
U.S. and Turkish diplomats seem inclined to let the matter drop rather than risk interference in counterterrorism efforts, but House leaders plan to vote on a resolution rebuking Erdogan over the attack.
"He is an enemy of everything we stand for," Rohrabacher said. "More importantly, he is an enemy of his own people and we should side with the people of Turkey, not with their oppressor."