Diplomatic Impunity
May 18, 2017

On Wednesday, there was rare bipartisan agreement on two things: appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia's meddling in the U.S. presidential election was a good idea, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's armed security detail beating and kicking peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington was an outrage. After Erdogan met with President Trump on Tuesday, he went to speak at the Turkish ambassador's residence, and when roughly two dozen "peaceful protesters" gathered outside, D.C. police chief Peter Newsham said Wednesday, they were subjected to a "brutal attack."

Newsham said D.C. police are working with the Secret Service and State Department to identify the people who instigated the violence, and whether the men in dark suits, some with guns, are members of Erdogan's protective detail. According to two people with direct knowledge of the case who spoke to The Washington Post, D.C. police are trying to obtain arrest warrants for Erdogan guards they identify on video. Turkey's Anadolu state news agency acknowledged that Erdogan's security detail targeted protesters, but blamed "inadequate" police response for the violence.

Police say 11 people were injured, including one police officer and two Secret Service agents. Foreign security guards kicking and stomping U.S. protesters in the nation's capital did not sit well in Washington. "This is the United States of America," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Twitter. "We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this thuggish behavior." Mayor Muriel Bowser called the assault "an affront to D.C. values and our rights as Americans."

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to quickly pursue "appropriate criminal charges" before the guards left the U.S. "Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior," he said. Some of the guards are believed to have diplomatic immunity or left the U.S. with Erdogan, The Wall Street Journal reports, though the State Department — which expressed its "concern" to Turkey "in the strongest possible terms" — is exploring ways to block Erdogan's security detail from returning to the U.S.; some of the same guards harassed a Turkish reporter in Washington last year, too.

The State Department summoned the Turkish ambassador to express America's concern, WSJ reports. Turkey's Embassy claimed "the violence and injuries were the result of this unpermitted, provocative demonstration." Peter Weber

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