U.S. Senator raises eyebrows by listing Turkey as Trump anti-corruption target

A U.S. Republican senator drew an angry reaction after he listed Turkey as one of several countries where he said President Donald Trump was fighting corruption.

Senator James Lankford led bipartisan efforts in 2018 to sanction Turkey over its imprisonment of U.S. citizens, including Andrew Brunson, an American pastor held for nearly two years on espionage charges before his release in October 2018.

With Trump facing impeachment over an alleged attempt to coerce Ukraine into launching an investigation that would damage his political opponent, CNN news network pressed Lankford on whether he thought the president was fighting corruption abroad.

The senator refused to provide examples on air, but later posted a tweet giving a list of the countries where he said Trump was clamping down on corruption.

“I think it’s obvious but here’s the list Iran, Venezuela, Turkey, North Korea, Cuba, China, Colombia, Libya … to name a few,” he said.

The tweet sparked an immediate backlash on social media as users demanded evidence of attempts to fight corruption in those countries.

Becket Adams, the senior commentary writer for the conservative Washington Examiner magazine, called Turkey the worst example Lankford could have chosen.

“The White House's accommodating approach to Turkey has been so bad, and so deferential, that it nearly overshadows all of the good foreign policy accomplishments by the Trump administration,” he said.

Trump has consistently responded leniently to Turkish foreign policy moves that defied U.S. warnings, including the completed purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems and the launch of a military operation against Kurdish forces who partnered the United States in north Syria.

U.S. moves targeting corruption in Turkey include sanctions imposed by the Treasury on Turkish businessmen involved in networks that moved Venezuelan gold past a U.S. blockade.