Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's impending visit to the United States has lawmakers fearing a sequel to the violence his team perpetrated in May.
A bipartisan pair of senior House lawmakers want Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to warn Erdogan against allowing any violence when he travels to New York for the United Nations General Assembly next week. They also want the State Department to bar anyone involved in the May assault from entering the country.
"Mr. Secretary, foreign officials, including security personnel, must respect U.S. law while visiting this country," House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and ranking member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., wrote in a Friday letter to Tillerson. "Those who fail to do so must only be allowed to return to the United States to face the charges against them."
A grand jury indicted nineteen people, including 15 members of Erdogan's security detail, for attacking protesters against his regime outside the Turkish embassy in Washington D.C. in May. The incident outraged American lawmakers, particularly after video emerged of Erdogan observing the beatings until local law enforcement intervened.
"This is the United States of America," Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said after the assault. "We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior."
Some lawmakers urged the Trump administration to punish Erdogan directly. "Erdogan should never again be invited to the United States," Calif. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, said in an ensuing hearing.
"This was an attack on American sovereignty," California Rep. Brad Sherman, a senior Democrat on the committee, added. "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."
Erdogan's regime was impenitent, however, accusing U.S. law enforcement of being "unprofessional" when breaking up the clash and claiming to have been provoked by the protesters. And Erdogan said last week that he plans to protest the indictments when he meets President Trump at the UN, calling the charges "a clear and scandalous expression of how justice works in America."
That shouldn't cause the State Department to flinch from remonstrating with Turkish diplomats, Royce and Engel stressed. "We must ensure that Turkish National Police and accompanying security personnel respect the laws of the United States and refrain from any aggressive actions that are unrelated to the protection of the Turkish President," they wrote.