WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees, joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“But, I was just at the Munich Security Conference, as you know, David, and I heard from a wide range of our allies that President Trump's very abrupt decision to pull all of our troops out of Syria, even while our core allies were in combat against ISIS, without consulting them, has weakened our standing with our allies. I'm concerned that President Trump's America First strategy may leave us a friendless nation when it comes to trying to rally the international community to impose meaningful sanctions on North Korea,” said Senator Coons.
Video and audio available here.
Excerpts from the interview below:
Sen. Coons on President Trump: Well, I'm grateful that the President didn't take an unprecedented and dangerous step of giving away our military presence on the Korean peninsula in exchange for a weak deal. So, yes, I think it's a good thing that he walked away rather than agreeing to something that was badly flawed. But, I do think he ended up walking away, in part, out of a lack of real preparation. I'm concerned by a report by NBC News that American negotiators had dropped a requirement that North Korea make a full and transparent accounting of its nuclear missiles, its nuclear research program, its nuclear enrichment facilities. President Trump famously criticized the nuclear deal with Iran that President Obama accomplished as being "terrible and weak." One of the most important features of that deal was that we finally got a full and transparent accounting of all stages and steps of Iran's nuclear program, and the opportunity to do searching inspections on all of it. That's something we should not drop in negotiations with North Korea, and I'm concerned there doesn't seem to be a follow-on or a next step to transition this to professional diplomacy between technical experts. We need to stop with the reality TV summits, and move towards real and serious diplomacy with North Korea.
More on North Korea: Well, they also have a very strong and lethal cyber-attack capability -- but, I think so. I think it is naïve. And, don't believe me, believe President Trump's own Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who recently testified to Congress that our intelligence community assesses that Kim Jong-un will never fully denuclearize. There are two very concerning parts to me about President Trump's comments: first, he took dictator Kim Jong-un at his word, that he was unaware that American Otto Warmbier's condition was so terrible that he died upon returning to the United States. And, second, he keeps talking about our special relationship, and his close and warm relationship with this terrible dictator, who has an awful human rights record. That kind of language is usually reserved for our closest allies like the United Kingdom, not for one of the worst abusers of his own citizens.
Sen. Coons on Cohen: Absolutely. We would hope that he would be exclusively focused on trying to accomplish a diplomatic breakthrough with a country that we know has nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles, and, has threatened to attack us. And, clearly, the President was greatly distracted, as was the whole country, by the riveting testimony of Michael Cohen. Look, I'll agree with President Trump that Michael Cohen is a liar and a criminal, who's now going to jail. But the striking thing here, Mika, is that so is Roger Stone. So is Paul Manafort. So is Michael Flynn. Apparently, candidate Trump surrounded himself with criminals and liars, yet we're supposed to believe that neither he, nor his campaign, did anything illegal. We have to remember what the important thing was that came out of Michael Cohen's testimony yesterday: I'm sure President Trump isn't the first president to have an affair, or to do improper things to cover it up, so no matter how distracting the sleazy aspects of a porn star hush payment might be, the important matter yesterday was that Michael Cohen testified that he was in the room as President Trump, then candidate Trump, heard from Roger Stone about their coordination of efforts to make sure that WikiLeaks disclosed the materials stolen by Russian intelligence from the DNC in order to influence the 2016 election. That really matters. I'm certain he is the first president to be credibly questioned over whether or not there was some role between his campaign and a hostile power.
More on North Korea: Well, here's the bigger challenge. Our success in terms of containing Iran's nuclear program came because of a very well-coordinated, several-year-long effort, with our closest allies, to put real pressure on Iran through sanctions. That's the thing we need to be doing now -- sustaining our sanctions against North Korea. And, again, I'll commend the president for walking away rather than lifting all of our sanctions. But, I was just at the Munich Security Conference, as you know, David, and I heard from a wide range of our allies that President Trump's very abrupt decision to pull all of our troops out of Syria, even while our core allies were in combat against ISIS, without consulting them, has weakened our standing with our allies. I'm concerned that President Trump's America First strategy may leave us a friendless nation when it comes to trying to rally the international community to impose meaningful sanctions on North Korea. This is a critical moment for us to gather our allies and reapply tougher sanctions on North Korea.