Trump’s Bizarre, Unhinged Letter to Erdogan

There's no rational explanation for this.

Last week, just days after he had agreed in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to move American forces in northern Syria aside so that Turkey could invade the region, President Trump sent what can only be called a bizarre letter to Turkish President Erdogan:

President Donald Trump warned President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey against being “a tough guy” and “a fool” in a bombastic letter last week that was apparently delivered as the Turkish military launched its invasion of northeast Syria.

In the letter, which was authenticated by the White House, Trump urges his foreign counterpart to negotiate an end to Turkey’s assault against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, which has drawn widespread condemnation by the international community.

The correspondence was made public Wednesday as the president continues to face fierce criticism for granting tacit approval of the incursion earlier this month, and as administration officials have sought to project a hard line against Erdoğan’s government amid sustained political fallout.

“Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will. I’ve already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson,” Trump wrote in the letter, referring to sanctions the Treasury Department previously imposed on senior Turkish officials for the detention of an American evangelical clergyman.

“I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal,” he continued, adding that Kurdish General Mazloum Kobani of the Syrian Democratic Forces “is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past.”

“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen,” the president concluded. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”

Daniel Larison offers this observation:

Trump is anxious to show that he wasn’t simply caving to Turkey, so he threatens to wreck their economy, but at the same time he effectively approved the Turkish invasion that he is now desperate to denounce. His tone somehow manages to be bullying and desperate at the same time. He makes promises that Turkey will gain concessions that he can’t possibly guarantee, and then warns that Erdogan will be seen as “the devil” if he doesn’t comply with Trump’s demands. In what universe would a message like this produce a favorable response? I can imagine Erdogan laughing at this letter, and I can imagine him cursing at it, but I don’t see how he is supposed to take it seriously.

According to the BBC, Erdogan’s response was about what you’d expect:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put US President Donald Trump’s letter “in the bin”, the BBC has been told.

In the letter dated 9 October, and sent after US troops were pulled out of Syria, Mr Trump told Mr Erdogan: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”

Turkish presidential sources told the BBC that the letter was “thoroughly rejected” by Mr Erdogan.

On the day the letter was received, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive against Kurdish-led forces.

When this letter was first made public on the Twitter account of Fox Business Network reporter Trish Reagan many observers questioned whether it was for real or some kind of bizarre Photoshop job. After all, while we all know that Trump often speaks in language like this in public, one would assume that his official correspondence to foreign leaders, which under normal protocol would have been reviewed by the Chief of Staff and other officials and is typically drafted or edited by staff would not read like it was written based on the taunts of a sixth-grader on a school playground. Soon after it was released, though, the White House confirmed that the letter was genuine.

To call this letter embarressing is an understatement. As I said, it reads more like the taunt of a supposed schoolyard bully than a serious piece of correspondence written by the President of the United States of America to the leader of an ally aimed to trying to avert war in a region that has already seen its fair share of war over the past eight years. If this is an example of the kind of correspondence that Trump is sending to foreign leaders, then things are much, much worse than I thought.

Here’s the letter:

FILED UNDER: National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. M. Bouffant says:

    Impeachment nothing, it’s 25th Amendment time.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    If this is an example of the kind of correspondence that Trump is sending to foreign leaders, then things are much, much worse than I thought.

    Doug? Things in this admin have always been much much worse than you thought. Worse than we mere mortals not blessed with the great and unmatched wisdom that is his can even imagine.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Yet still, 40% of the electorate, and the Republican Congressional Caucus, will bow down and kiss his fat orange ass.

  4. CSK says:

    As far as I can tell–though I haven’t researched it exhaustively–Cult45 is ignoring this.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Not to minimize this letter, which is a window into what happens when weak mental capacity meets great pressure, but really it is a side show to the travesty playing out in Turkey and Syria.
    11,000 Kurds lost their lives fighting ISIS alongside us, and then Trump turned around and pissed on their graves.
    And once again it goes back to what benefits Putin.
    As it is reported that Pelosi said to Trump, yesterday;

    Putin wanted a foothold in The Mideast, now he has one. All roads with you lead to Putin.

    Most importantly…Does anyone really think there will be no repercussions for this? Who is the Kurdish Bin Laden? Americans will die because of Trumps actions. Who is willing to give up their lives for Trump?

  6. KM says:

    The man has mental issues, period. A personality disorder (NPD if there ever was a textbook case) as well as some sort of cognitive decline causing visibly accelerating dementia / senility.

    This is *BLATANTLY* obvious for anyone not actively in denial. If you had an elderly family member who was acting like this, there’d already be discussions about getting him care. Can’t remember things, rewrites recent events others were present for to their faces, disproportional verbal lashing out at minor issues, increasing hostility and paranoia. Easily confused and able to be taken advantage of, vocabulary slowly decreasing to simple words and concepts. Visibly unhealthy-looking, poor diet, circulation’s got to be hell based on his pallor, unsteady hands and gait.

    At this point, the GOP is engaging in elder abuse the same way Trump’s abusing his power for personal gain. They are deliberately allowing this train wreck to keep on chugging because it benefits them. At what point do we hold them accountable for essentially letting grandpa burn the house down because they wanted his SS check?

  7. steve says:

    The conservatives will love this. They think leaders should talk like tough guys out of movies. They will also mumble about how they care about results so they don’t care how he talks, but they will also continue to ignore the results. The result of Trump’s tough guy bit is that Turkey invaded. Didn’t work. (This applies more broadly almost everywhere. Just to pick one topic, look at immigration. They like his talk on immigration. The result is that nothing has happened. The Senate had reached a compromise that would have increased monitoring at points of entry AND provided money for a wall, but Trump rejected that.)


  8. mattbernius says:


    They will also mumble about how they care about results so they don’t care how he talks, but they will also continue to ignore the results.

    Add to the list of things for them to ignore, the Diplomatic Protocol swipe that Turkey took by placing their flag behind Pence for the official photoshoot. The only American flag in the picture is the small one on the table.


    BTW, note that Turkey followed standard protocol with Russia. Also note the look on Pence’s face as even he realizes how bad this is.

  9. KM says:

    But how was the letter “tough”? Nothing in there read as “tough” but rather “slimy car salesman practicing positive reinforcement”. Lot’s you-can-do-it’s and let’s-make-a-deal-it-will-be-great!! but not a lot of assertive statements or I’m-gonna-kick-your-ass-if-you-don’t-stop. It seriously reads like a small child’s letter to Santa. Dear Santa Erdogan, I’ve been really good this year so you need to be good too and give me what I want. We had a deal. If not, no cookies for you and you’ll be sad. But you won’t because you’re Santa Erdogan so do the right thing and gimme my presents! Love, Donny!

    If someone thinks this letter is “tough”, my pre-coffee snark must be Drill Sargent Nasty A-level. I’ve heard more convincing kindergartens talk big about beating up their stuffed animals. This…. this is just deeply sad on an existential level. How far we’ve fallen that this isn’t incontrovertible proof of immediate impeachment due to sheer incompetence and ill-suiteness for the Office of POTUS.

  10. Kathy says:

    Essentially Dennison is saying this:

    “Ok. I was a complete idiot for letting you s.o.b. invade Syria to slaughter the Kurds. But I’ll be damned if I ever admit it, and I’m going to blame you and make you pay if you dare do what I was ok with you doing the other day. It should be your responsibility to fix my blunders. It is your responsibility, because I make more money than you do.

    So fix it, NOW, and fuck off!”

  11. Pylon says:

    Man, I don’t see that letter as very tough. He’s literally begging.

  12. Not the IT Dept. says:

    It reads like a business letter from one CEO of a family-owned corporation to another. It’s almost pathetic how confident it sounds, like Trump is finally back in a milieu he knows, with jargon he’s comfortable with, so sure that this is a fool-proof move. It doesn’t read demented to me; for that you have to get the transcripts of his personal speeches or conversation or interviews.

    Question: does Trump’s fondness for dictators come from a belief that North Korea and the Philippines and China etc. are just really big family-owned companies?

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    In a word it’s ‘weak.’ Trump is a weak man.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    From before the election I’ve been saying that the most important thing to realize about Trump is that he is a total moron. I suspect a fair number of you thought I was just being hyperbolic. But this letter is typical Trump and not an indication of cognitive decline. If you go back to the eighties and look at the things we know he has actually written (usually in felt tip marker) this is actually pretty normal for him.

  15. charon says:


    unsteady hands and gait.

    Balance and muscle control degradation, gait changes are characteristic of some types of dementia. Also muscle spasms, which he exhibits.

  16. steve says:

    “Man, I don’t see that letter as very tough.”

    Doesn’t matter what you think. His supporters will see the ” I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will.” They will tune the rest out. We saw that with the Ukraine transcript and most anything else he says. The right wing media will aid and abet.


  17. Kathy says:


    But how was the letter “tough”?

    It’s often been said Trump is a stupid man’s idea of a smart man, a poor man’s idea of a rich man, and a cowardly man’s idea of a brave men.

    He’s also a weak man’s idea of a tough man.

  18. al Ameda says:

    I’ve always been of the opinion that Trump was grease ball, a con man and grifter, basically a bad person. So, my expectations were already low on Inauguration Day.

    Since then he’s behaved in a manner far below my already very low expectation. He started things off by having a meltdown over the estimated crowd size for his inauguration, and it’s been a free fall ever since.

    There …. is …. no … bottom ….

  19. Kathy says:

    @al Ameda:

    Minor point, but Trump also has no idea! what exclamation points are for!

  20. TheLounsbury says:

    Well, no good rational explanation. Some rational explanations although none particularly flattering to the orange cretin.

  21. TheLounsbury says:

    @Kathy: Yes, yes this is indeed spot on.

  22. dmichael says:

    @MarkedMan: Another blogger put it this way: The letter looked better in the original crayon.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump is an end-state psychopath. He’s failing. His gusher of bullshit isn’t working anymore. His bullying isn’t working – his own people are rolling over. My guess is he’ll either run away or decide on the political version of suicide by cop. My guess is that he’ll do the easier of the two, which is to run away – that will make him feel like he has some control. Walk before they make you run, if I may appropriate some Rolling Stones.

    We’re at the part where Trump voters begin to learn that the boldness and aggressiveness of the bully are not the same thing as courage. Trump is weak, and he’s a coward. Those character defects will dictate his next moves. He can whimper his way to electoral defeat, he can be dragged out of the WH, or he can stomp out. In any case he’ll play the victim and spiral ever downward into conspiratorial madness. He’ll try to calculate the financial repercussions – which hurts his business more? I’d guess Ivanka and Jared would push for a ‘run away’ while Don Jr. and Eric will want a full götterdammerung.

    The important thing, the necessary thing, has already been achieved: Trump is utterly discredited. He will go down in history jostling for position as worst president. His voters will go down as the last gasp of frightened knuckle-draggers incapable of coping with a world that is more brown and more female.

  24. Gustopher says:

    I eagerly await our local Trumpeteers to explain why this letter is great.

  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    Poor @JKB has disappeared. He’s the smartest of the maroons.

    @Guarneri pops in to yell, You’re lying, you’re lying, my daddy’s not a crook! You’re all just jealous cause my daddy has a golden toilet! Sob. Sob.

    I assume the @Paul creature has had to restock his supplies of exclamation points.

    Even J-nos’ latest sock puppet seems to be avoiding us.

  26. PJ says:

    Well, at least someone in the White House had it typed out rather than just sending the original version written in crayons.

  27. Kathy says:


    Will an approximation do?

    The way to prevent the Russians from moving into northern Syria, and to keep Turkey out entirely, was to keep US troops in place. But that’s a side effect. The main reason to keep them there was to support the Kurdish forces wiping the floor with ISIS, and containing captured caliphate assets, operatives, and their accompanying hordes.

    But the Kurds were not paying us any money, and they’re worse than ISIS and they’re not angels –did you know they didn’t help us in Normandy? So what do you expect someone with great and unmatched wisdom to do? Roll over and keep an endless war going forever? They’re not even paying us when we’ve let them do our work for us!

    besides, they’re better off with the Syrians who oppress them and their Russian allies and the Turks keeping them safe from Turkey! It’s all because of the impeachment witch hunt!

    What letter!!

  28. Gustopher says:

    Copied this text from the article quoted in the Trump Has A Pissy Fit In A Meeting thread, since my comment is more relevant here…

    According to Democrats, Trump began Wednesday’s meeting with a “lengthy monologue” on Syria, and then “bragged about his ‘nasty’ letter” to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which the White House released afterward. Trump even distributed copies of the letter at the meeting.

    He’s proud of it. Even after it was leaked the night before and people were mocking it. Even after Erdogan received it and ignored it, Donald J. Trump is proud of it.

    It’s not that he has no shame, it’s that he doesn’t know when he should be ashamed.

    “Look I made a poo!”
    “Sir, this is an Arby’s”

  29. de stijl says:

    My favorite bit was:

    “I’ll call you later.”

  30. CSK says:

    I fully expected our resident Trumpkins to inform us that Hey! This letter was a joke on Trump’s part. He was owning the libturds and the enemedia!! He wasn’t serious!

  31. de stijl says:

    When I was in the third grade I wrote an embarrassing letter and had my best friend pass it on to her best friend to pass it on to her.

    At least mine didn’t say:

    Do you want to genocide the Kurds?



    (Please check one.)

  32. al Ameda says:

    @de stijl:

    “I’ll call you later.”

    What, he didn’t use the Twitter-preferred TTYL?

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @al Ameda: I was expecting something more along the lines of, “Call me, maybe.

  34. Joe says:

    I seek comfort, Kathy, only in the absence of any ALL CAPS sentences.

  35. de stijl says:

    @al Ameda:

    What is crazy is that his comms team has zero input. This is obviously a straight transcription of his actual words in letter form (stripped of the f-bombs).

    They do not possess the agency to recommend that a seaoned person convey the same message in a more professional tone and more diplomatic verbiage. That is bonkers!

    That Trump writes and posts his own tweets is insane!

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: From over at the Bulwark: Are the President’s Advisers on Strike?

    Recently in The Bulwark, I speculated that President Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds would lead to much crazier things happening, or at least to much crazier things seeing the light of day, without responsible adults around to make everything look grown-up and professional.

    That result was not long in coming. And yes, I’m talking about Trump’s crude, childish letter to Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which had everybody asking whether it could possibly be real.

    Let’s be clear. Nobody was asking whether this was something Trump would write, because we’ve all seen his Twitter feed and we know that this sort of thing is his natural style of expression: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.” That’s actually a bit more literate than his average tweet. What was a surprise is that this wasn’t coming from his personal Twitter feed but was released by the U.S. government, that it was not scribbled in crayon but typed out neatly on White House stationery.

    How did that happen?

    Tom Nichols wonders about “the letters we haven’t seen.” But I have no doubt that this is what the first draft of every Trump letter has looked like, before the serious people come in and translate it to adult human. But now we’re getting Donald Trump unfiltered, as he is, with no help and no enablers. Why?

    Maybe his aides had no choice. Maybe the president has finally reached the point at which he feels confident overriding all of his advisors. Maybe he has gotten away with so much and become so fed up at the sense that he is being “handled” that he has decided to write his own letters and make his own foreign policy without anybody else’s involvement. Or maybe he has fired and driven away all of the serious people, so there is nobody left who is willing or even able to make the president look more serious. But the abruptness of the change raises another big possibility: maybe his aides and advisors have gone on strike.

  37. Kathy says:


    It’s harder to do ALL CAPS! on a phone.

  38. Sleeping Dog says:

    Also early stages of Parkinsons.

  39. de stijl says:



  40. de stijl says:

    I am firmly in the camp that Trump should be judged of his behavior alone.

    Obviously, there is some appetite for telediagnosis here. I don’t comprehend what benefit or edge that that rank speculation adds.

    We are not his doctors nor in the same room as him. Unfounded and unproven speculation you want to be true, is still unfounded and unproven speculation.

    Are you a credentialed professional? Do you have the educational and clinical wherewithal to diagnose someone you’ve never met?

    His behavior alone is utterly damning.

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Well, I would have said that total moron was probably a little over the top, but I can see now that I would have been wrong, so I apologize . My bad 🙁 .

  42. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    Yes, but.

    You don’t have to be a doctor to know that someone bleeding at the spot where a knife protrudes from their back is injured and requires medical attention.

    Granted, you won’t know how badly injured, whether removing the knife would do more harm than good, which tissues exactly have been damaged and how badly, or even if there is just one wound or many.

    So, you don’t need to be a doctor to be able to tell Trump displays signs of some sort of mental impairment. granted, a lay person can’t say which kind (neurological or psychological), how bad, how extensive, etc. Hell, for all we know he’s even receiving some kind of treatment for it.

  43. de stijl says:

    No, but.

    We have no idea what stew of nonsense rattles thru that man’s brain.

    But we have demonstrable behaviors and statements.

    The first is conjecture. The second is fact.

    I’d rather base my call for action on the the thing that is not conjecture.

  44. de stijl says:

    No, but.

    We have no idea what stew of nonsense rattles thru that man’s brain.

    We have demonstrable behaviors and statements.

    I’d rather base my call for action on the the thing that is not conjecture.

    Which is more compelling? Trump said this and acted thusly and must be defeated?

    Or here is speculation as to his mental and physical state and health and is unprovably why Trump said that and acted that way which I cannot remotely prove, and that is the reason to oppose him?

    I have a theory – NPD. I cannot prove it. It aligns with the behavior, but it is speculation.

    I oppose Trump because he is bad at his job. Why he is bad at his job is unknowable and immaterial.

    That he is bad at his job is enough.

  45. Jax says:

    @de stijl: And terrible at being a decent human. That came long before any potential disorders he may be suffering from right now.

  46. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    I am firmly in the camp that Trump should be judged of his behavior alone.

    I understand what you’re saying, but I thought we were past ‘judging’; the question is what to do about it. And what to do about it may depend on accurately diagnosing whether he’s merely a treasonous moron, or whether he’s impaired and failing.

    I could almost imagine Senate Republicans coming to realize that the 25th Amendment is their face-saving way out: “Republicans aren’t really evil traitors, it’s just that he was ill, and can’t be held responsible for his actions. President Pence will ensure a return to normalcy.” But only if he really is whacked; they aren’t going to cram that one down Trump’s throat unless it’s true.

  47. Hal_10000 says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    Impeachment nothing, it’s 25th Amendment time.

    Yes, that will be a nice five minutes until he reinstates himself. The 25th A does not remove the President from office and can be overridden unless 2/3 of Congress agrees. Might as well be impeaching.

  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: I agree. Unfortunately, we may be a small minority that doesn’t have enough TDS to care that for many on this thread it seems that getting him out of office will be inadequate unless he is also found insane, driven out of DC in shame and derision, and locked in Arkham Asylum for the rest of his life, tortured by having to listen to Hillary making her “deplorables” comment 24/7. (Did I leave anything out?)

  49. charon says:


    the question is what to do about it.

    That’s the utilitarian POV, the only reason to take an interest is what you can do about it. After all, why should I watch Thursday Night Football, there is nothing I can do about it.

    If all Trump has is Narcissistic Personality Disorder comorbid with a secondary diagnosis of APD (sociopathy), these underlying behavior drivers will be pretty much as they are now next August at the RNC convention and at the general election in November. If such is the case, we have a pretty good idea what to expect.

    But, suppose I am right that he also has a dementia that is becoming more visibly significant at an alarming rate, seriously worsening his behavior. I still, as a Democrat, am unable to do anything about this. But, as an interested observer, I can note that Republican senators will make a big mistake if they acquit his impeachment. Because that’s the only way they can dump him, there is no chance his corrupt cabinet of grifters will vote Amendment 25. If they don’t dump him, he will be a terrible drag on the downballot 2020 ticket, he will be that obviously demented by then.

  50. de stijl says:


    What to do about it?

    Defeat him. And if he’s been impeached and removed by the election – or he’s resigned, defeat Pence.

    Knowing whatever makes him unfit and unworthy doesn’t accelerate anything. He is demonstrably unfit. And manifestly unworthy. He committed a federal crime live on TV last week.

    The Senate will acquit if he is impeached. The 25th Amendment play just ain’t gonna happen – fantasy thinking. If the dude starts drooling and soiling himself on national tv and he starts talking to Hannity live on Fox as if he were his dad, Trump will still serve out the full term.

  51. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Do not put Trump in Arkham Asylum!

    The inmates are always escaping from it, or taking it over.

  52. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    The Senate will acquit if he is impeached. The 25th Amendment play just ain’t gonna happen – fantasy thinking. If the dude starts drooling and soiling himself on national tv and he starts talking to Hannity live on Fox as if he were his dad, Trump will still serve out the full term.

    That’s certainly one possibility. If you’re right, that has implications for strategy among those who want to save the country. And, to be honest, I think you’re probably right — the deplorables and the dupes aren’t going to accept Moscow Mitch’s word for it that Glorious Leader was actually whacked and needed to be sequestered for his own good.

    That said, we’re not that far away from the moment when getting Trump out of the driver’s seat by any pretext whatever is preferable to any alternative.

  53. de stijl says:


    Thankfully, elections are purpose built to choose a new president. Perhaps we should focus on that.

  54. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    That was overly snide. I apologize. I was being a snot.

  55. charon says:


    Someone at least sort of agrees with me.


    I’ve said since November 2016 that:

    A. I don’t think Trump will finish his term

    B. Likely that Repubs will turn on Trump, not out of principle or because it’s a good move for them, but because Trump will get so bad that it’ll be their least catastrophic option