LAST_UPDATESun, 18 Feb 2018 9am

Erdogan Watched Attack On Protesters In D.C.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan watched Tuesday as men believed to be members of his security detail attacked protesters in the nation’s capital.

Moments before his supporters pushed through a police line, an aide leaned over Erdogan, seated in the back seat of a vehicle near the Turkish ambassador's residence.

The aide straightened himself and spoke to another aide, who rushed toward the protesters seconds before the brawl began.

Shortly after, Erdogan exited the vehicle and looked directly toward the melee feet away.

The revelation of Erdogan's proximity to the incident came in a video posted to Facebook on Thursday afternoon by Voice of America's Turkish division.

The Turkish embassy did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry about whether Erdogan played a direct role in the incident.

Before the violent confrontation, Erdogan earlier on Tuesday met with President Donald Trump at the White House.

A police officer and 11 other people were injured in the confrontation, authorities say, one critically.

The State Department condemned the attack Wednesday, and police in the nation’s capital said they were working to identify the assailants, some of whom were armed.

“We witnessed what appeared to be a brutal attack on peaceful protesters,” said Peter Newsham, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in the nation’s capital.

“That’s not something that we tolerate here in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “We are going to pursue everything that’s within our legal power to hold the folks that were responsible accountable for their actions.”

Newsham said “there could be a diplomatic immunity issue, but that won’t prevent us from doing what we need to do." He said officers had identified some assailants and were working with the State Department.

"We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protestors and Turkish security personnel Tuesday evening," the State Department said in a statement. "Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest. We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms."

The protest group included Armenian and Kurdish activists opposed to Erdogan. Two people were arrested in the immediate aftermath. One was charged with aggravated assault and the other with assaulting an officer.

Scholars say it may be possible for men on the Turkish government payroll to face criminal charges, especially if they are not accredited with the State Department and permanently stationed in the U.S.

Police on Thursday referred questions about possible charges to the U.S. attorney’s office.

"We are working with the Metropolitan Police Department to review the events that took place outside the Turkish Embassy. We typically do not comment on ongoing investigations, and have no comment at this time," says Bill Miller, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office.