Nov 08 2018

One close ally and one fierce enemy of Erdogan voted out in U.S. elections

Two members of the U.S. Congress who took opposing stances on ties between Turkey and the United States were voted out of office in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Republican Pete Sessions, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Americans, lost his bid in Texas for reelection to the U.S. House. “Pro-Turkish PACs spent heavily on him this cycle,” according to Eli Lee, a researcher at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The Turkish Coalition USA PAC is a regular donor to Sessions, giving at least $29,500 in total with its central and local branches as well as some other pro-Turkish government PACs over the last two years, according to campaign finance data.

Another Republican, Dana Rohrabacher of California, was narrowly defeated by a Democrat. Rohrabacher was well known for his anti-Erdogan rhetoric and pro-Russian views and friendly relations with Vladimir Putin.

He is also tight with the Gülen movement, according to Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish businessman who was caught up in the lobbying scandal that brought down former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn.

“FETÖ’s closest member in the U.S. House lost … Better developers are ahead,” Alptekin tweeted on Thursday, using a Turkish acronym that refers to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organisation. Ankara blames the organisation for the failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two days before the coup attempt, Rohrabacher said in a Congressional hearing that he was “concerned that Turkey is on the wrong track” and added Erdoğan’s attacks on Gülen were “counterproductive,” according to Politico.

Days after the coup attempt, he said in a statement “Nothing in Gülen’s record suggests he would plot a military coup.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, is looking into a meeting between Rohrabacher and Flynn, who is alleged to have been working to advance Russian policies, NBC News reported last year.

Sessions drew the ire of the Armenian lobby when he introduced a Turkey–Armenia normalisation bill last year during a bipartisan push to recognise the Armenian genocide. The bill aimed for improved ties between Armenia and Turkey and omitted any mention of genocide. The move was a win for Turkey’s attempts to close debate on massacres of Armenians during World War I.

On the other hand, Adam Schiff, who had also very harsh statements against the Erdogan government as well as strong supporter of Armenian genocide bills and Armenian causes elevated to be the head of powerful intelligence committee at the House as his party takes over the majority.