April 22, 2018

Corker Discusses Pompeo Nomination, Russia Relations, and North Korea

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – During interviews on CNN “State of the Union” and ABC “This Week” today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, discussed the upcoming committee vote on Mike Pompeo’s nomination to serve as Secretary of State, U.S. relations with Russia, and the potential for talks with North Korea. Excerpts of both interviews follow.

On the need to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State: “This is a person that is highly qualified… Incredibly qualified person. Knows more about what is happening in the world probably than anybody in America because of his post at C.I.A… [U]nder ordinary times, he would be confirmed overwhelmingly. Secretary Clinton had one negative vote when she came through. John Kerry had no negative votes when he came through committee. He is more qualified, probably, than either of them but at least as qualified. We just live in a very partisan environment... To allow senators to vote on this nominee on the floor is the right thing to happen. It’s just sad that our nation has devolved politically to this point where someone of his caliber is not going to be confirmed in the committee itself.”

On U.S. relations with Russia: “Our relations are at that low point, the lowest since the Cuban missile crisis. Our leadership knows that. Secretary Mattis knows that. And therefore, the rhetoric, the kinds of things we are doing to de-conflict in Syria are very important because things are hot right now between us. And it's not that we should be preparing [for conflict]. It's that we should be aware that miscalculations could lead us to a very bad place. And I think that’s why you see Secretary Mattis saying the things he is saying and urging the caution that he is urging. If you saw during this last effort, fortunately, when we went into Syria, as we should have, recently, and did what we did, you saw that… there were conversations that had taken place, and Russia had its defensive mechanisms off. They were not operating, so, you know, that was a good thing, but I think what you're seeing our leadership be concerned about where things might go if there is a miscalculation because of the tremendous deterioration of the relationship.”

On potential for talks with North Korea: “I’m glad they're meeting. I think all of us look at this with great caution and skepticism. This has been going for 25 years, and obviously Kim Jong Un has learned about public relations and is setting it up well for him. But I think everyone that’s been around this looks at it as just the beginning. [It] may lead to something, may not. Let's make sure the meeting and the context for it is set up in the appropriate manner… [Kim Jong Un] views having deliverable nuclear weapons as his ticket to dying as an old man in his bed. He saw what happened with [Muammar] Gaddafi. Gaddafi’s a dead man now because he gave up his nuclear weapons, and so to think that somebody’s going to go in and charm him out of that is not realistic. Is there some progress that can be made? I hope so, but, you know, that’s a big hurdle… [O]f course, the best case is denuclearization, obviously. Is it realistic that he’s going to willy-nilly do that? Absolutely not… I think we go into this knowing we have a huge problem. He's gone way down the road with his nuclear activity. Very close to having something that’s a danger to the United States. And, I think, beginning discussions we should hope for the biggest and just see where it goes.”