Briefing calms senators' nerves after Trump-Kim summit

Briefing calms senators' nerves after Trump-Kim summit
© Getty Images

Senators emerged from a closed-door briefing Tuesday on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un assuaged the administration has a plan going forward, even if it remains unclear whether the plan will be successful.

“I see what the strategy is,” said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineProgressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Lawmakers wager local booze, favorite foods in World Series bets José Andrés: Food served in the Capitol came from undocumented immigrants MORE (D-Va.), who called the briefing “great.” “The odds of success on the strategy are not high, but I think everybody’s realistic about that.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was briefed by special envoy Stephen Biegun days after Trump walked away from his summit with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, without a deal on denuclearization.

The talks in Hanoi fell apart after North Korea asked for all United Nations Security Council resolutions after March 2016 to be lifted in exchange for dismantling its main nuclear facility, followed by Trump challenging Kim to go “all in” on denuclearization, the administration has said.

Administration officials have said that despite the failure to reach a deal, the gaps between the two sides were narrowed. They have expressed hope that progress can be made by continuing with working-level negotiations.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats warn State Dept against punishing individuals who testify in impeachment hearings Pompeo condemns 'deplorable' killings of Iraqi protesters MORE said Monday he is “hopeful” a team will be back in Pyongyang in “in the next couple weeks,” though he acknowledged “I have no commitment yet.”

Asked about the possibility of success at the working level, Kaine suggested the issue lies with the North Koreans, not Biegun.

“They could if it were up to” Biegun, Kaine said of whether working-level talks could be successful. “He’s had, I think, difficult challenges on the other side of the discussions.”

Several senators contrasted Tuesday’s briefing to one they had the night before on Saudi Arabia sanctions and the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Whereas the Khashoggi briefing was “worthless,” in Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says Trump should be allowed to undo DACA order The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems, GOP dig in for public impeachment hearings The Hill's Morning Report - Witness transcripts plow ground for public impeachment testimony MORE’s (R-S.C.) words, senators described Biegun as an excellent briefer.

“It was probably one of the best briefings I’ve ever had,” Graham said of Biegun’s briefing.

Graham said the way forward after Hanoi is to “just keep talking.” At some point, though, Trump will have to decide “whether or not he’s being played,” Graham added.

“They’re closing some gaps, but they’re a long way away. And I would just say this: Everybody in the world better hope this turns out well because if it doesn’t, then we’re going to have a major problem on our hands,” Graham said.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Trump, Erdogan confirm White House meeting | Public impeachment hearings set for next week | Top defense appropriator retiring Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward Senate Democrat: Colleague was working on fantasy football trade instead of listening to Schumer MORE (D-Conn.) said after the briefing that Trump walking away in Hanoi was the “only way” to force North Korea to revisit its stance.

“I hope they’re right that this prompts a new round of negotiations,” Murphy said. “But this also could just simply be another patented Kim family play for time. History has a way of repeating itself, and nobody would be surprised if this little burst of negotiations goes nowhere and we don’t hear anything for another 10 years.”

He added there are not “a lot of other plays right now, so I think we got to all get behind this one no matter our deep reservations about the president’s ineptitude.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischHillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches Key Republican senator points to Chinese IP theft as holding up trade deal Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite MORE (R-Idaho) said there is “cautious optimism” that gaps were narrowed during Hanoi and expressed confidence negotiations will continue.

“This thing has been ongoing since the Olympics, since the closing ceremony of the Olympics in 2017,” Risch said, referring to the Winter Olympics. “This has been constant by phone, by meetings, by travel and everything else. This is ongoing, and it’s going to continue to be ongoing.”

Risch also expressed confidence the relationship between Trump and Kim can continue to propel negotiations.

“These two people have a special relationship, and it is that special relationship that is moving this forward,” Risch said of Trump and Kim.

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTariffs threaten 1.5M jobs: Study This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' MORE (R-Colo.) vowed Congress would keep up sanctions pressure on North Korea after the summit amid the ongoing negotiations. 

“We will continue to impose maximum pressure on the North Korean regime,” Gardner said. “We will continue to fight for more sanctions on ship-to-ship transfers and third parties who violate the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act and a variety of United Nations Security Council resolutions.”