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ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP – Phone calls between heads of state continue to get attention. It was a phone call, of course, between Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine that launched the ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House.
And Tuesday morning, Democrat Bob Menendez, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he wants access to the call between Trump and Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan.
“There had to be a deal made,” Menendez said after a public event at Picatinny Arsenal, one of the most prominent military installations in New Jersey.
The reference was to the phone call between Trump and Erdogan on Oct. 6 that soon resulted in the U.S. withdrawing troops from northern Syria and an invasion by Turkey.
The actual phone call aside, Menendez’ anger is not alone among his peers on both sides of the aisle in condemning the president for essentially endorsing an attack on the Kurds, longstanding American allies in the region.
While there is widespread Congressional opposition to the move – even among some former Trump administration officials – the senator acknowledged there isn’t a whole lot Congress can do. He did say that if he headed the Foreign Relations Committee, he’d call hearings on the matter. That would happen only if Democrats controlled the Senate.
Still, when it comes to the deployment of American troops, Menendez ruefully mentioned the constitutional reality in saying that Trump is the commander-in-chief.
Tuesday’s event at Picatinny, which was also attended by Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, officially was about highlighting the award of a $41 million contract to build a Munitions Disassembly Complex. That was billed by the senator as a “major investment and expansion of Picatinny’s vital national security mission.”
There normally would be little partisan politics about this type of thing, but these are not “normal” times.
Menendez said President Trump planned to use the $41 million allotment to build his much ballyhooed wall on the southern border. Yes, that was a wall for which Mexico was supposed to pay, the senator cracked.
Menendez said he vowed not to let that happen on “my watch.”
The key for Picatinny to keep the money was awarding the contract prior to the end of the last fiscal year on Sept. 30, That was done, allowing Picatinny to get the money and for a few dozen Army officials to get together for a celebration.
All this is quite relevant to Picatinny’s future as the base is perennially threatened with closure.
That’s why Menendez said he met personally with Ryan D. McCarthy, the new secretary of the Army, to extoll the base’s virtues.
Or as the senator put it at the press event, Picatinny is the “brain power” behind the nation’s “firepower.”