With caveats, Republicans praise Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE’s highly anticipated meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un largely attracted praise from congressional Republicans, but they also expressed wariness and want to sign off on any agreement. 

Republicans said this week’s summit was a promising first step, but some expressed concern about Trump’s warm words for the North Korean leader and his surprise call to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, a longtime ally.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders is a risk, not a winner Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (R-Ky.) praised it as “an historic first step in an important negotiation.”

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Even so, he acknowledged that finding a long-term diplomatic solution “will take a great deal of hard work” and warned that allies must be ready to impose economic penalties if North Korea is not willing to follow through on its promises.


Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Trump doubles down on Neil Cavuto attacks: 'Will he get the same treatment as' Shep Smith? Trump lashes out at Fox News coverage: 'I won every one of my debates' MORE (R-Wis.) commended Trump “for not accepting the status quo.”

But he also warned against celebrating a diplomatic victory prematurely.

“We must always be clear that we are dealing with a brutal regime with a long history of deceit,” he said in a statement. “Only time will tell if North Korea is serious this time, and in the meantime we must continue to apply maximum economic pressure.” 

Some Republicans raised concerns about Trump’s call to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, something that took the Pentagon by surprise.

“I don’t think that’s wise because we have done these exercises for years,” Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Progressive group backs Senate candidates in Georgia, Iowa MORE (R-Iowa), who chairs a Senate Armed Services subcommittee, said Tuesday. “I would just ask the president, why do we need to suspend them? They are legal.”

Other Republicans balked at Trump’s effusive praise for Kim, who he said has a “great personality” and is “very smart.”

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad McSally launches 2020 campaign Sinema will vote to convict Trump MORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Trump critic, said he wouldn’t have made those kinds of remarks.

Trump called into the weekly Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday to tout the Singapore summit as he flew back to the United States aboard Air Force One.

Republicans in the meeting said Trump sounded jubilant about what he touted as a successful meeting.

Democrats, meanwhile, went on the attack Tuesday, condemning the president for legitimizing what they say is a brutal regime and for appearing too eager to strike a deal.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Schumer cites security, DHS ban in questioning TSA use of TikTok Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill MORE (N.Y.) blasted Trump for giving “a brutal and repressive dictatorship the international legitimacy it has long craved.”

He also faulted Trump for rushing into a deal with Kim and failing to secure detailed objectives.

“It is best not to dive in head-first and hope for the best but rather to work slowly, transparently and verifiably to build trust and lock in concessions,” Schumer warned on the Senate floor.

He questioned the lack of detail on how to achieve a pathway to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and on how to verify that North Korea has disarmed.

House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill MORE (Calif.) said Trump gave away too much and received little in return.

“In his haste to reach an agreement, President Trump elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime’s status quo,” she said in statement.

Pelosi added Trump only won “vague promises” from Kim and failed to lock down a “clear and comprehensive pathway to denuclearization and non-proliferation.”

But while Republicans acknowledged that the Trump administration has a long way to go to negotiate an acceptable final deal with North Korea, many of them praised him for making the effort.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses Senate votes to rein in Trump's power to attack Iran Coronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 MORE (R-Ark.), an emerging influential voice on national security issues within the Senate GOP conference, said Trump must deal directly with North Korea because it’s a nuclear power.

“It’s not something that we should celebrate. It’s not a pretty sight. But it’s a necessary part of the job to try to protect Americans from a terrible threat,” Cotton told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt.

Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedThis week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill Cuccinelli: New York reintroduced 'the main problem' that allowed 9/11 New Yorkers blocked from Global Entry program over immigrant license law MORE (R-N.Y.) warned of dire consequences for North Korea if Kim proves to be negotiating in bad faith.

“If Kim Jong-un throws away this opportunity, it will mean the military destruction of his country and his death,” he said in a statement.

Republicans made clear Tuesday that they don’t want a repeat of former President Obama’s historic deal with Iran — another longtime U.S. enemy — which did not have to clear the high bar of winning supermajority approval in the Senate.

Instead, the Senate voted on a resolution of disapproval on the Iran deal, which fell short of the 60 votes it needed.

GOP lawmakers say they want any deal with North Korea to be considered as a treaty, which would require 67 votes to pass the Senate.

“I think there would be widespread interest in Congress for having involvement. ... [If] the president can reach a significant agreement with North Korea, I hope it takes the form of a treaty,” McConnell told reporters after meeting with the GOP conference.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R-Tenn.) said that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe problem with Trump's Middle East peace plan India rolls out the red carpet for Trump Limbaugh: Democrats who set up George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq now organizing 'silent coup' against Trump MORE has indicated that the administration plans to send any future agreement to Capitol Hill for approval.

“Yeah, assuming there is a final agreement, they’ve indicated that they would bring that agreement to us in the form of a treaty,” Corker said of the administration.  

Obama negotiated the Iran deal as a commitment among nations to sidestep the need for congressional approval, which angered many GOP lawmakers at the time.

“I think when you’re talking about something as profound as maybe ending a war that we’ve been in for about 70 years. ... I think it should take congressional action to solidify it,” said Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada Top GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren up, Bloomberg down after brutal debate MORE (R-N.C.).

Jordain Carney and Melanie Zanona contributed.