Why Trump congratulated Turkish President's controversial victory

Why Trump congratulated Turkish President's controversial victory

President Donald Trump congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a contested referendum that granted him broad new powers and deepened concern about the NATO ally's growing authoritarian ways, CNN reports. 

Trump's outreach to Erdogan put him on a very short list of those who praised the results, including Hamas, the Palestinian militant group labeled a terrorist organization by the United States.

Just over a mile away, State Department officials wagged a finger, noting widespread voting irregularities that gave Erdogan his razor-thin victory and warning Turkey to protect all its citizens' rights and freedoms.

Trump's call and the internal administration disconnect raised eyebrows, not least because Turkey has already cast a shadow over the administration. As a candidate, Trump admitted his family's business interests there create a conflict of interest -- and that was before revelations that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been operating as a foreign agent on behalf of Turkish interests while advising Trump.

"The President is aware" of concerns about Erdogan's growing authoritarianism, a senior administration official said. "On the other hand, Turkey is a vital NATO ally in the counterterrorism field and I think he felt that in those competing constituencies, he needed Turkey with us in that fight and he let other elements in the government address the referendum."