Sen. Coons: “I want whatever new money is spent on border security to be spent as wisely, as smartly, and as effectively as possible.”
Sen. Coons on Venezuela: “This is a critical moment both in the history of Venezuela and in our relations in this hemisphere.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Appropriations and Foreign Relations Committees, today joined CNN New Day to discuss border security, the Mueller probe, and Venezuela.
“The 35-day long federal shutdown was completely senseless, for the President to take us into another shutdown would be senseless. But the point of compromise is to not begin by saying absolutely no at this end or this end. It was the President who caused this shutdown by demanding $5.7 billion for a wall,” said Senator Coons.
“None of us knows for sure what Robert Mueller has uncovered and what he's going to be able to prove. But the President shouldn't be allowed to interfere with that investigation or shortchange it. That's why I've reintroduced a bipartisan bill with Senators Graham, Tillis, and Booker to protect that probe and allow it to finish,” said Senator Coons.
Video and audio available here.
Excerpts from the interview are below:
Sen. Coons on the shutdown: I hope so. I hope we're going to find a path out of this. Let me be clear, what I said was that a border barrier is infrastructure, it in and of itself isn't immoral but lots of things about President Trump's immigration policies are immoral, intentionally separating children from their parents, using cruelty as a tool of immigration policy is immoral. But when we're talking about infrastructure on the border, Democrats and Republicans over the last 20 years have voted to increase border security through a whole series of things. Modern technology, more personnel, and more border fencing. There's 700 miles of fencing already. I don't know exactly what combination of money and technology will get the President's support, but he should let the Senate and this new bipartisan conference committee do its work and not prejudge the outcome.
Sen. Coons on fencing: I want whatever new money is spent on border security to be spent as wisely, as smartly, and as effectively as possible. I don't think that means another several hundred-miles of border fencing. But, I want to make sure that what we're spending is actually going to reduce the flow of drugs and criminals into this country, which if I were in charge would mean investing in ports of entry. That's where the overwhelming majority of illegal and illicit material coming into our country is coming, not through the remote desert in rural Texas and Arizona.
More on the shutdown: I think the 35-day long federal shutdown was completely senseless, for the President to take us into another shutdown would be senseless. But the point of compromise is to not begin by saying absolutely no at this end or this end. It was the President who caused this shutdown by demanding $5.7 billion for a wall. I'm not going to sit here and say I refuse to spend a dollar on border security that includes any fencing like the 700 miles of fencing we already have.
Sen. Coons on Roger Stone: The way I see it is that Robert Mueller, an incredibly senior law enforcement leader, keeps closing in. Someone with his experience doesn't make their most important and most central charge first, they make it last. And that Roger stone, someone so close to the President and his political activity over a long period of time has now been charged with being actively in communication with Wikileaks about the transfer of information that we separately know was gained through Russian intelligence I think is a significant step forward. It doesn't finally prove the case one way or the other about what the President knew, when he knew it or whether or not he was personally involved in a conspiracy with the Russians, but it moves it a step closer to his innermost circle.
More on Mueller: That's exactly the point of my hard work on a bipartisan basis to defend the Mueller probe. I don't know. None of us knows for sure what Robert Mueller has uncovered and what he's going to be able to prove. But the President shouldn't be allowed to interfere with that investigation or shortchange it. That's why I've reintroduced a bipartisan bill with Senators Graham, Tillis, and Booker to protect that probe and allow it to finish.
Sen. Coons on Russia: Because they were concealing inappropriate activity. I think there were -- you mean -- is your question why were there so many people at the senior levels lying about Russia?
More on Russia: That's a conclusion to be reached first by the Mueller probe and then by whichever body is responsible for reaching the conclusion about whether it was criminal. Whether it ends up being an impeachment proceeding or it ends up being a jury in a court of law. I have tried to carefully not prejudge this entire investigation and, on a few occasions, I've gotten ahead of myself. I'm trying to be careful about that and protect the process and protect the investigation.
Sen. Coons on Howard Schultz: We'll have to see. There are several different elections in our lifetimes where a third party or an independent candidate made up the margin of difference but did not come close to winning. Either winning in the primary field generally obviously or winning in the general election. So, it's possible that Howard Schultz would be a spoiler. I find it hard to believe that he actually would end up being elected president. But after 2016, I've learned any sort of guess as to what the outcome will be is likely to be wrong on my part.
More on Schultz: Spoiler, yes. I had a cup of Starbucks coffee first thing this morning, great cup of coffee. The real question is, is the American interested in a repeat of Donald Trump, meaning someone with no prior experience of government and public service, but in this case perhaps someone who has a stronger record as an ethical business leader.
Sen. Coons on Venezuela: Well this is a critical moment both in the history of Venezuela and in our relations in this hemisphere. I do think it's significant that the United States has now stepped out and said we recognize the opposition leader and we are calling for new free, fair, and open elections. The Maduro government has been a disaster from a humanitarian perspective, economic perspective. I'm concerned that Russia is being more aggressive in terms of their statement about their interests, their engagement in Venezuela. If we can get through these next few months without military action by either the united States or Russia, that would be a positive thing. But the suffering of the Venezuelan people is stunning. The dislocation to the whole region striking. And ways in which this would reset positively or negatively our relations in this whole hemisphere have to be watched closely. So, a casual consideration of military action in Venezuela gives me grave concern. But building carefully a multilateral coalition with our European and North American allies and working closely with the Venezuelan opposition and people to prepare the ground for whatever might come next, that's the sort of patient preparation for diplomacy first and action second that we would hope for from a mature and seasoned leader.