Dems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting

Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are providing tepid praise to CIA Director Mike Pompeo’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 Trump.

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 Murphy (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 Shaheen (D-N.H.), who added that it won’t change her “no” vote for Pompeo as secretary of State.

Sen. Tim Kaine (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 Cardin (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 Wyden (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 Menendez (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 Corker (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 Inhofe (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.”

Tags Ben Cardin Bob Corker Bob Corker Bob Menendez Chris Murphy Donald Trump James Inhofe Jeanne Shaheen Kim dynasty Kim Jong-il Kim Jong-un Mike Pompeo Mike Pompeo Ron Wyden Tim Kaine

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