Dems lash Trump team for failing to hold North Korea briefing
Even as Senate Democrats remain furious with President Donald Trump’s Russia strategy, their frustration is only growing when it comes to the other global hotspot in his sights: North Korea.
The Trump administration has yet to hold a private briefing for all senators about the president’s June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, despite weeks of efforts to get something scheduled, according to a source briefed on the talks.
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And while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to testify next week in the Foreign Relations Committee about Trump’s Russia and North Korea meetings, Democrats are exasperated by the administration’s unwillingness to set a date for the classified briefing planned for all senators.
“We’ve been asking Secretary Pompeo to come and explain the Trump Administration’s strategy on North Korea for a long time, and they have failed to provide the necessary briefings or hearings to either the full Senate or the Foreign Relations Committee,” the panel’s top Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, said through a spokesman.
Republicans point to Pompeo’s committee appearance as a forum for Democrats to get answers. But that testimony would come six weeks after Trump sat down with Kim, and Democrats want more than a single hearing to dig into what was — or wasn’t — accomplished at the meeting. North Korea followed up the extraordinary summit by blasting the administration’s pitch for denuclearization.
Given that next week’s Pompeo hearing “is also intended to address a whole range of critical issues beyond North Korea — including Russia and Iran,” Menendez added, it is “not a substitute” for classified briefings to let senators know more about what happened during the much-touted Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.
“I think it’s unfortunate that it keeps slipping,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), another foreign relations panel member, said of the planned all-senators briefing on North Korea. “And it makes me wonder if that’s because there is nothing to report, because there is no substantive follow-up.”
One senior Senate Democratic aide described the elusive status of an all-senators briefing as “troubling.”
“What concessions did the president offer? What steps is Kim willing to take? Did they actually make any real progress or was this a glorified photo op?” the aide said. “It’s starting to feel like they are scared of pulling back the curtain.”
Democrats aren’t alone in wanting the Senate to weigh in on any final denuclearization deal the president may ultimately ink with North Korea.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said hours after Trump met with Kim that he would want any agreement “to come to Congress in some form.” The Senate GOP’s campaigns chief, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, has written legislation with Menendez that would require the submission of any deal to Congress and regular briefings from the administration.
But the Democratic clamor for a closed-door briefing on North Korea isn’t getting echoed too loudly by the GOP.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) suggested that Democrats “start with the secretary” testifying next week in the foreign relations panel “and see what else they reasonably would want.”