10.12.17

[VIDEO] Sen. Coons: Trump appears “more reality TV star than world leader” as international crises loom

Sen. Coons on Trump threats towards NBC: “It’s not acceptable”

Sen. Coons: “I'm very concerned about the president moving to de-certify that the Iran nuclear deal is in the best interest of the United States”

WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Morning Joe this morning to discuss North Korea, Iran, and the President’s recent attacks on NBC News. 

“There’s a number of I think destabilizing steps that the administration is taking. I'm very concerned about the president moving to de-certify that the Iran nuclear deal is in the best interest of the United States and in both cases, confrontation with North Korea and a path forward on a Iran, we need to be demanding a strategy that we can get behind,” said Senator Coons. “I have said privately to senior leaders of this administration that they would find bipartisan support for a clearly articulated strategy to contain Iran's destabilizing regional behavior and to press forward on putting the screws to China to be a better partner in containing North Korea. The administration was making great progress at the Security Council and in getting dozens of our allies to expel North Korean diplomats and to shut down North Korea’s opportunities for earning income through foreign workers and through exports. We need to focus on that.”

Full video and transcript available here.

Excerpts from the interview:

Senator Coons on North Korea:  Well, this is a very concerning time. One of the things that I have said consistently since President Trump became president was he needs to put the phone down. He needs to stop conducting foreign policy and national security by tweet. It's not a well-honed tool for complex international negotiations. And I deeply respect Chairman Bob Corker. He has led the Foreign Relations Committee in a responsible and constructive way and I know many of my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, share concerns that this is a moment when we need to be letting our diplomats focus on marshaling the world to confront North Korea, engaging China successfully, and these sort of casual throw away lines by the president, which strike me as more reality TV star than world leader, are destabilizing at a time when we need his focused leadership. 

More on North Korea: That’s what makes it possible for me to sleep at night is that I don't see us taking military steps to prepare for a major confrontation with North Korea. We have not pulled out the tens of thousands of American dependents of the U.S. Troops that are on the peninsula, we haven't pre-positioned large stores of munitions and fuel and mobilized significant numbers of jet fighters and bombers and ships, which our military would if we were beginning serious planning stages for an imminent confrontation. So most of what I see so far is there is a fair amount of bluster and threatening war talk between the leaders of North Korea and the United States, what concerns me about that is it does increase the odds that there will be a miscalculation, a misunderstanding. We don't have robust communication channels with North Korea, the way we have had with other adversaries in the past. We had much better communication channels between our military and the Soviet military during the Cold War. So if there is an incident where a spy plane or a spy ship is shot down or intercepted as has happened before with North Korea, with China, I think the risk of a misunderstanding and a rapid escalation is getting greater with the bellicose rhetoric we are hearing out of the leaders of both countries. 

Senator Coons on Congress’ role re: North Korea: Well, it's a great question, we have been pressing for, more recently, demanding a strategy out of the administration. There’s a number of I think destabilizing steps that the administration is taking. I'm very concerned about the president moving to de-certify that the Iran nuclear deal is in the best interest of the United States and in both cases, confrontation with North Korea and a path forward on a Iran, we need to be demanding a strategy that we can get behind. I have said privately to senior leaders of this administration that they would find bipartisan support for a clearly articulated strategy to contain Iran's destabilizing regional behavior and to press forward on putting the screws to China to be a better partner in containing North Korea. The administration was making great progress at the Security Council and in getting dozens of our allies to expel North Korean diplomats and to shut down North Korea’s opportunities for earning income through foreign workers and through exports. We need to focus on that. The president is distracting our top diplomats and Congress from focusing on that strategy. 

Senator Coons on President Trump and Twitter: Well, it's both. The president is popping off on Twitter in a way that is normalizing unconstitutional statements. First, just to be clear, as you said the president can't pull a license for NBC, the Federal Communications Commission, which is an independent agency licenses individual stations, not whole networks so there is no risk that the president is about to pull the license of a network with which he disagrees. But the idea that the president would repeatedly engage in public statements that are just obviously undermining the first amendment is an alarming development. I agree with Senator Ben Sasse, that we all have to stand up in common, those of us who are elected, those of us in the media, those of us who care about our constitutional values in civil society, and push back on this, this is not normal behavior. It's not acceptable.  

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Press Contact

Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov