Washington, DC. 100 American Senators piled into buses Wednesday for a rare trip to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House for a top secret briefing on North Korea.
The top democrat on the foreign relations committee, Senator Ben Cardin(D-Md) noted that the trip across Pennsylvania Avenue marked an unusual setting.“In my congressional career, there’s never been a similar type of meeting held at the White House,” he told reporters. “But I don’t want to read too much into this.”
Major Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, briefed the senators. Trump briefly stopped by the meeting, which had originally been expected to take place at the Capitol.
“He welcomed senators to the White House. It was encouraging to see virtually every senator there, both Democrats and Republicans, and it was a long and detailed briefing,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said after the meeting.
The administration has pledged to take a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un amid escalating tensions with the isolated country over its nuclear program after a failed missile launch last week.
“I don’t want to get into the details of the briefing itself, but I think it’s clear that they are going to take more steps, and steps to pressure China as well as others in the region, to get the results we need, which is peaceful denuclearization,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said.
Ted Cruz added that he was “cautiously optimistic that we are seeing early signs that China is helping and cooperating and reining in North Korea. … Time will tell.”
Gardner, who declined to discuss the details of the meeting, said he supports adding North Korea back to the State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism. But Gardner said he had “no indication yet from the administration” on whether that would happen.
“The next question for the administration is the pressure that we can bear on North Korea and those in the region to make sure they are also pressuring the North Korean regime to de-nuclearize,” he said.
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) said that the terrorism designation wasn’t discussed during the meeting.
He added that Vice President Mike Pence gave introductory remarks at the closed-door meeting, but left before questions began, leaving many the impression the meeting was designed to get the attention of Russia, China and North Korea, but did not produce any new demands, strategy or reveal US intent to force a solution.
Trump faced criticism from Democrats ahead of the meeting, who accused the president of ramping up rhetoric on North Korea without a strategy for how to deal with its nuclear program.
“I really don’t understand how this president’s game plan [will] get North Korea to change its calculation, because that needs to be our objective,” Cardin told reporters.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, added that Trump’s “escalation of rhetoric” isn’t helpful and is currently “making more enemies than friends.” Leaving analysts to conclude the big meeting, like all Trump productions, was all show with no positive results.
Tags: Asia; Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK); Donald Trump; Donald Trump administration; North Korea; President Donald Trump; U.S. President Donald J Trump; US politics; US President Donald Trump