Briefing calms senators' nerves after Trump-Kim summit

Briefing calms senators' nerves after Trump-Kim summit
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Senators emerged from a closed-door briefing Tuesday on President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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 KaineWarren's pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback Almost three-quarters say minimum age to buy tobacco should be 21: Gallup Overnight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador 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.”

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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 PompeoLatest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong 63 killed in blast at Afghan wedding as Taliban, US negotiate troop withdrawal Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan 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 warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan 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: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces White House eyes September action plan for gun proposals Trump phoned Democratic senator to talk gun control 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 RischTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China Overnight Defense: US exits landmark arms control treaty with Russia | Pentagon vows to 'fully pursue' once-banned missiles | Ratcliffe out as intel pick | Trump signs budget deal that boosts defense | Trump defends North Korea's Kim as 'friend' The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal 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 GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down 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.”