Dems demand briefing, intel on North Korea nuclear talks

The Democratic chairmen of three House committees are accusing President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE of withholding “critical information” from lawmakers about his administration’s ongoing negotiations with North Korea.

In a letter to Trump sent Thursday — days before he is scheduled to depart for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam — the leaders of the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Armed Services committees criticized the administration for failing to brief Congress on North Korea denuclearization talks since the first summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore in June.

The Democratic chairmen demanded that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Senators say Trump using loophole to push through Saudi arms sale Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran MORE brief all members of the House on the outcomes of both summits within a week after the forthcoming summit in Vietnam concludes.

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“There is no legitimate reason for having failed to provide regular, senior-level briefings to the relevant committees of jurisdiction on a matter of such significance to our national security,” Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump Tillerson told lawmakers Putin was more prepared than Trump for meeting: report Tillerson meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee MORE (D-N.Y.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.) and Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info MORE (D-Wash.) wrote Thursday.

The lawmakers also accused the administration of failing to provide Congress appropriate access to intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and conventional weapons programs and failing to produce a report on North Korea's nuclear program as mandated by annual defense policy legislation. 

They expressed support for an agreement with Pyongyang that results in “complete and fully verified dismantlement” of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. However, they expressed skepticism about Kim’s commitment to denuclearization, citing in part recent public testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Hillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset 'deepfake' threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children's privacy MORE.

Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month on a new U.S. intelligence assessment showing that North Korea is “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability.” The intelligence assessment also noted officials have observed “activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization.” 

“We are perplexed and troubled by the growing disconnect between the Intelligence Community's assessment and your administration's statements about Kim Jong Un's actions, commitments, and intentions,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

“Furthermore, our ability to conduct oversight of U.S. policy toward North Korea on behalf of the American people has been inappropriately curtailed by your administration's unwillingness to share information with Congress,” they wrote.

Trump is expected to meet with Kim for the second time in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28. Senior administration officials told reporters Thursday that the two leaders would have an “opportunity” to meet one-on-one and dine together, as well as participate in expanded meetings of their respective delegations. 

The summit in June — the first between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader — resulted in a joint declaration in which Pyongyang and Washington agreed to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” but was light on specifics of how it would be achieved. Following the summit, Trump claimed on Twitter that North Korea “no longer” presented a nuclear threat.

However, experts have since cast doubt on Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization. Reports in recent months based on commercial satellite imagery have indicated North Korea is continuing to work on its missile program.

Critics have also pointed to the intelligence assessment as seemingly out of step with Trump’s pronouncements.

Trump has touted the progress on North Korea among his achievements, claiming in a news conference last week that the Japanese prime minister had nominated him for a Nobel peace prize for his work opening up talks with Pyongyang. Trump has also claimed the U.S. would be “in a major war” with North Korea had he not been elected.

Earlier this week, he told reporters that he was in “no rush” to deliver on denuclearization if Pyongyang does not conduct any nuclear tests.

“We’re in no rush whatsoever,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to have our meeting. … As long as there’s no testing, I’m in no rush. If there’s testing, that’s another deal.”

A senior administration official said Thursday that the president’s primary goal in the second summit is to achieve full denuclearization, describing the meeting as “an important step to that goal.”

“That is the overriding goal that President Trump is seeking to achieve with this summit,” the official said.