July 25, 2018

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing Featuring Testimony From Secretary of State Pompeo

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following opening statement at a hearing featuring testimony from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on President Donald J. Trump’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the administration’s ongoing dialogue with North Korea.

“Secretary Pompeo, we are glad to have you here today. We are grateful for your service to our country. I have faith in your leadership, and I appreciate what you are doing to change the culture of the State Department in positive ways.

“But I want to get straight to the point. You come before a group of senators today who are filled with serious doubts about this White House and its conduct of American foreign policy.

“There are a number of reasons to be concerned, among them is the lack of information the administration has provided to members of this committee.

“It’s our hope that you will reduce our level of concern by providing us with clear answers that might help convince us that those at the White House know what they are doing and that – to be candid – you know what they are doing.

“I can’t say it more forcefully. We really need a clear understanding as to what is going on, what our president is agreeing to, and what our strategy is on a number of issues.

“Last week, President Trump held a summit with Vladimir Putin, someone who has violated the most fundamental international norms through his efforts to annex Crimea, has interfered with elections, including our own, has supported the brutal Assad regime in Syria, has used chemical weapons to poison a former Russian agent and his daughter in the United Kingdom, has occupied portions of Georgia, continues to violate the INF Treaty, has reportedly hacked U.S. utilities, the list goes on and on, and you know the list.

“In the face of these hostilities, in the summit’s aftermath, we saw an American president who appeared submissive and deferential.

“We’ve heard that some agreements were reached, but as of yet have little idea what those might be, even though the president has already extended an invitation to Putin to come to Washington to discuss the ‘implementation’ of these undefined agreements.

“The president also recently met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, one of the most ruthless leaders on the planet, who has continued to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that could hit the United States, has executed his half-brother with poison in Malaysia and reportedly killed his uncle back home, has essentially murdered an American college student, and has enslaved millions of his own people.

“One in 10 North Koreans are living in slavery today, and one in five children are stunted due to malnutrition.

“In the face of these realities, the president has called him ‘very talented’ and that ‘he loves his people.’

“Really?

“At the recent NATO summit, the president not only pushed NATO member countries to dedicate more of their budgets to defense – a goal we all share – he went on to berate them, question the very premise of NATO, and in my opinion, used false information to turn public opinion in the United States against the alliance.

“He even went so far as to cast doubt on the United States’ willingness to enforce Article 5 of the NATO treaty. We want to know if this is real or just another off-the-cuff statement.

“And the confronting of our partners goes beyond traditional security and extends into the economic space as well.

“I know you are aware of my strong feelings about the administration’s abuse of its authorities in using Section 232 to implement tariffs in the name of national security.

“So far, we have zero clarity from the administration as to what the endgame is on the Trump-Pence tariffs, which in reality are a massive tax increase on American consumers and businesses. And now, the administration appears ready to offer welfare to farmers, who would rather have trade than aid.

“As you know, senators have gone to the White House in groups to discuss these actions, and not a single person that I am aware of has left those meetings with the sense that there’s a coherent strategy driving these policies.

“The administration tells us, ‘Don’t worry, be patient, there is a strategy here.’ But from where we sit, it appears that in a ‘ready, fire, aim’ fashion, the White House is waking up every morning and making it up as they go.

“This is the first in a series of hearings we will hold in coming weeks dealing with the troubling dynamic I’ve described – one in which we are antagonizing our friends and placating those who clearly wish us ill.

“This series will deal specifically with Russia as perhaps the most troubling example of this emerging reality.

“I hope that in your position you will do all in your power to provide us with the answers we need today and as we move forward in our future hearings.

“I look forward to your testimony, and I want thank you again for being with us and for the many outstanding people you are bringing onto the State Department to work with you.

“With that, I’ll turn to Senator Menendez.”

###