White House says Trump didn't apologize to Turkey's Erdogan for D.C. clash with protesters

Hunter Walker
White House Correspondent
Members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail are shown violently reacting to protesters during his trip to Washington in May. (Voice of America via AP)

WASHINGTON — The White House is rejecting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim that President Trump said he was “sorry” for a May incident in which security personnel from Turkey attacked protesters in Washington, D.C.

Erdogan made the claim in an interview with “PBS NewsHour’s” Judy Woodruff. Asked Wednesday about the Turkish leader’s comments, White House National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton offered a terse response in an email.

“It’s wrong,” Anton said.

The incident occurred in May when Erdogan was in Washington to visit Trump. Erdogan has a residence in D.C., and when he returned there after the meeting with Trump, there was a group of protesters outside. Video footage showed a group of men in suits attacking the protesters and beating them as Erdogan observed. Washington, D.C., police, who stepped in to stop the violence, said some of the men who attacked the protesters were members of Erdogan’s security detail. Turkish media has also reported the men were security officials. The State Department called the situation “deeply disturbing,” and the D.C. police released a statement describing it as standing “in contrast to the First Amendment principles we work tirelessly to protect.”

In his interview with Woodruff, which was released Tuesday, Erdogan said he recently discussed the incident with Trump.

“President Trump called me about a week ago about this issue. He said that he was sorry, and he told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit,” Erdogan said, according to a PBS translation.

Yahoo News pressed Anton for details about his contention that Erdogan’s version of events was incorrect and whether there was any promise of a follow-up from Trump. Anton said the pair did talk about the incident, but denied Trump said “sorry.”

“The topic was discussed. There was no apology. Beyond that refer to the readout,” said Anton.

The White House released a readout of a Sept. 9 phone call between Trump and Erdogan.

“President Trump emphasized the common commitment of the United States and Turkey to work together to increase regional stability,” the readout said.

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and US President Donald Trump (2 L) chat each other during a dinner hosted by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (not seen) within the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, United States on Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo: Turkish Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia charged nine Turkish security officers and three Turkish police officers for their role in the attacks and issued arrest warrants for them. A Washington, D.C., grand jury indicted three more Turkish security officials in August. At the time, the 15 Turkish nationals facing charges in this country remained at large. Speaking on Turkish television last month, Erdogan described the indictments as “completely a scandal.”

“It is clearly a scandalous sign of how justice works in America,” Erdogan said.

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