WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday justified his controversial push to withdraw troops from parts of the Middle East by saying that the money spent there could be used to help rebuild inner cities and provide college scholarships.
Trump said one year of military spending in the Middle East could be used to give scholarships to every student at an inner-city school without offering details on how such a plan would work.
"Our leaders spent $8 trillion on wars in the Middle East, but they allowed our great cities to fall into tragic decay and disrepair," Trump said at a forum on criminal justice reform at Benedict College, a historically black college in South Carolina.
Trump's recent decision to pull U.S. troops out of northeast Syria, allowing Turkey to attack America's Kurdish allies, has been widely criticized by even Trump's fiercest defenders, including South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was with Trump at the event.
Trump's 2020 Democratic rivals are also speaking at the event.
Trump touted the benefits to the African American community of the criminal justice bill he signed into law and the decrease in unemployment among minorities. While Trump's approval rating among black voters has hovered at around 10 percent, his campaign advisers believed even picking up a few thousand black votes in key states like Michigan in Pennsylvania could be key to winning those states again in 2020.
"When I'm up on the debate stage with one of these characters, whoever it may be, and I rattle off a couple those stats, I don't know how they're going to beat me," Trump said. "They have to be awfully good."