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 TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller 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 KaineOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Dems ask Justice Dept to release findings of Acosta-Epstein investigation 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 PompeoTrump admin announces new restrictions on travel to Cuba Russia is gaining influence in Libya: How will Washington respond? Trump reverses policy, allows lawsuits against businesses in Cuba 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 GrahamWhy Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators GOP senators double down on demand for Clinton email probe documents 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 MurphyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam 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 Risch Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Overnight Defense: Air Force general tapped for Pentagon No. 2 | Dem presses Trump officials on Yemen strike | Pentagon details 4M border deployment cost Top senators warn Turkey: Choose between Russia missile system or US fighter jet 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 GardnerCain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Obama-era diplomat launches Colorado Senate bid, would be first openly gay male senator 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.”