Dems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting

Senate Democrats are providing tepid praise to CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo2 US service members killed in Afghanistan after Pompeo visit The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? State Department need not be at odds with itself on Republic of Cyprus policy MORE’s once-secret meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying they are happy the Trump administration is preparing for the upcoming historic summit between Kim and President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE.

But several also offered criticism at the same time, questioning the CIA's role instead of the State Department. Pompeo has been nominated as secretary of State, but has yet to be confirmed.

“I don’t know why the CIA is doing the pre-work for a diplomatic meeting,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I don’t hate the idea that there’s some preparation being done for a potential summit," he added. "I was really worried that there’d be no preparatory meetings, and both leaders would be operating from the seat of their pants, and that would be disastrous. So, yeah, it’s a good thing, not a bad thing that both sides are talking.”

On Tuesday night, news outlets began reporting that Pompeo secretly traveled to Pyongyang over Easter weekend and met with Kim in advance of a summit Trump has agreed to hold with Kim.

On Wednesday, Trump confirmed the meeting took place, saying it went “very smoothly.”

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

Later on Wednesday, Trump offered praise for Pompeo's work in brief remarks from Florida, and predicted he would be a great secretary of State.

The meeting between Pompeo and Kim is the highest-level known U.S.-North Korea talks since then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, in 2000.

If Trump follows through with meeting Kim, it will be the first time sitting leaders of the two countries have held talks.

When the meeting was first announced in March, several Democrats and some Republicans expressed concern that the meeting was agreed to without lower level talks first to lay the groundwork.

But on Wednesday, Democrats, who have largely been opposed to Pompeo’s secretary of State nomination, were pleased that talks are taking place in advance.

“I think it’s positive that they are beginning to do some of the underlying work before negotiations begin,” said Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay MORE (D-N.H.), who added that it won’t change her “no” vote for Pompeo as secretary of State.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael Kaine2020 debates complicate Senate plans for vote on Trump's war authority Senate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs Senate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack MORE (D-Va.), another key committee member voting against Pompeo, said the meeting was “good news,” but that it wouldn’t change his vote.

Committee member Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt Proposed bipartisan kidney legislation takes on kidney disease epidemic in America Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars MORE (D-Md.) said he’s “not surprised” at the meeting.

“I would hope that there is being preparations done for a meeting between the president and Kim Jong Un,” he said.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases MORE (D-Ore.) said the meeting is indicative of the trust Trump places in Pompeo.

“I would always rather have more preparation with this administration rather than less because so often they just show up and kind of wing it,” Wyden said. “I still remain extraordinarily troubled about how hard it is to get straight answer out of Mr. Pompeo on key matters.”

The harshest criticism of the meeting appears to have come from Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez cited the fact that Pompeo did not disclose the meeting as one of the reasons he will vote against him as secretary of State.

“I can tell you, even in his private conversations with me, he didn’t tell me about his visit to North Korea,” Menendez said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Now I don’t expect diplomacy to be negotiated out in the open, but I do expect for someone who is the nominee to be secretary of state, when he speaks with the committee leadership, and when he was asked specific questions about North Korea, to share some insights about such a visit.”

But committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.) said he thinks Pompeo only needed to disclose the meeting to the committee if a member specifically asked about it and that he does not think that happened.

“We have intelligence officials that are meeting people all over the world all the time, and most of us don’t know that’s occurring,” Corker said.

Corker added he would hope every senator is supportive of the administration preparing for the summit.

“I hope there will be a number of professionals who will be meeting with leaders in North Korea prior to the meeting, people from Energy, Defense and other places,” Corker said.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain Inhofe2020 debates complicate Senate plans for vote on Trump's war authority GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization MORE (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the meeting shows Pompeo is “getting a running start” on the secretary of State job.

“I think it’s great,” Inhofe said. “He could be involved in the greatest breakthrough in modern history, and so I think he’s capable of doing that, and I’m glad he’s doing that.”