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Risch: Give Trump credit on North Korea and ‘be a little patient’

Did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo successfully address the Senate’s concerns about President Trump's approach to dealing with Russia and North Korea? Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, tells Nick Schifrin that Pompeo did an excellent job putting those worries to rest, making an excellent case for the ways the administration has been tough on Russia.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    So, did Secretary Pompeo successfully address concerns about President Trump's approach to Russia and North Korea?

    For that, we get two views from senators who were at today's hearing.

    We begin with Senator James Risch of Idaho. He also serves on the Senate's Intelligence Committee.

    Senator, thank you very much. Welcome to the program.

    A fellow Republican, Chairman Bob Corker, expressed very deep concerns about President Trump's approach to both summits with President Putin and Chairman Kim Jong-un, and not only that, the White House's general foreign policy.

    Do you share those concerns?

  • Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho:

    Well, first of all, Bob Corker is a really good friend of mine, and I have great respect for his opinion.

    But he and I do differ significantly on a number of these issues. I think that Secretary Pompeo really laid out an excellent case today about how tough President Trump has been on Russia, more so than any of his predecessors, be it sanctions, be it money spent on helping NATO, being money spent on helping the people in Eastern Ukraine, the fact that they are absolutely refusing to accept Russia's annexation of the Crimea, and the list goes on and on and on.

    I think he did really an excellent job of putting to rest the national media's obsession with this issue.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    As you know, a lot of people who are concerned with President Trump's policies towards Russia do acknowledge that actually this administration's policies towards Russia, as you mentioned, for example, with sanctions, Eastern Ukraine, has been tougher than his predecessors.

    A lot of people are worried about the rhetoric from the president himself and his wavering on whether he trusts the intelligence community's assessment on Russia and 2016. Are you worried about the president's rhetoric?

  • Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho:

    Well, look, everybody speaks differently.

    Certainly, I wouldn't say it the same way the president would, and nobody else would say it exactly the same way either. But, as you point out, even the — even the president's enemies and his critics acknowledge that he has been tougher than anybody else.

    So, you got to look at what a person does and not pay nearly as much attention to the rhetoric.

    As far as his acknowledgement that the Russians were involved in the 2016 election, Secretary Pompeo shot that right out of — right out of the shoot when he started and said, the president is absolutely convinced that it happened, he trusts the intelligence agencies.

    I sit on the Foreign — or I sit not only on the Foreign Relations Committee, but also the Intelligence Committee. I have looked at thousands and thousands of documents. Everyone acknowledges that the Russians were — were involved.

    I think one of the problems they have is when people try to tie that to the president, saying that somehow he colluded. There was no collusion. And there's been no evidence of collusion. And I think the president rightfully takes exception to people who claim that there was.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Let me switch the topic to North Korea.

    The secretary, of course, was asked about North Korea multiple times. We have recently seen the intelligence community say, yes, they are dismantling an engine test site. But that is all that North Korea has publicly done in terms of denuclearization.

    Is North Korea doing enough? And is the U.S. getting enough, given what the secretary said, not to worry about North Korea's commitments?

  • Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho:

    Well, first of all, I have just been shocked at the national media's hunger for the president to fail on the North Korea issue.

    We're all Americans. We should be pulling for the president to be successful in this regard. The president was very successful in getting the North Koreans to reverse their position on nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    He should be given credit for that, instead of criticized for it. In addition to that, there have been a number of things that have happened since they did reverse positions, not the least of which was the rhetoric stopped from the North Koreans. And, number two, they have quit testing.

    And, number three, we have seen a number of things on the ground, some of which I can talk about here, most of which I can't talk about here, that indicates that they are heading towards a denuclearization.

    Secretary Pompeo was questioned about that, and gave some outline of it, but conceded that he was going to have to, in a closed session, disclose more of what he knows, although those of us who've been through those closed sessions already know. I suspect we're going to have a closed session in the very near future where we have discussions of that.

    But, look, this thing is — this thing is moving forward well. I'm just — I'm amazed when I turn on the TV and see the talking heads tell us that, oh, the president's failing on North Korea. Look at the years that it took Barack Obama to get to a very bad agreement in Iran. The president wants a good agreement.

    Let's be a little patient with him and give him credit for what he's been able to achieve so far.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Senator James Risch of Idaho, thank you very much.

  • Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho:

    Thank you.

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