U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, clarified Tuesday that rather than attend all future negotiations with North Korea, he and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, will “interface” with the Trump Administration “as they negotiate these things.”
“Our job is advice and consent, and it’s going to be our intent to do exactly that as we go forward,” Risch told Idaho reporters in a conference call Tuesday.
A day earlier, CNN reported that Risch told national reporters in Washington, D.C., that the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had agreed that representatives from a Senate working group would attend any future negotiations with North Korea that come out of the summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, serving as “observers.”
Risch and Feinstein have co-chaired the Senate’s 20-member National Security Working Group since January 2017. Risch said Tuesday that the working group has met and dealt with other matters since then but said, “all of the meetings were classified, and I can’t tell you what those issues are.”
“We deal with the most pressing national security issues that are facing the country,” Risch said. “The people that are on it serve in an oversight capacity.”
Risch serves on both the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; if Republicans hold the Senate in the mid-term elections in November, he’s in line to chair Foreign Relations next year, which would make him the first Idaho senator to do so since Democratic Sen. Frank Church.
Risch said he met with Feinstein Monday, “and we talked about this at some length. Look, it’s not our job to be sitting at the table throughout the hours and hours of negotiations it’s going to take,” he said. “We do need to be there at the beginning or close to the beginning,” and “stay briefed as we go forward. … And the administration has given us commitments that that’s exactly what will happen — we will be briefed.”
He added, “I don’t want to create the impression that the Senate is going to try to take over the negotiations. They really shouldn’t, and can’t under the circumstances. This is the job of the professionals.”
Risch said the working group will provide “input to where this should go and what the wants are from the Senate side.” That way, he said, the ground will be laid for the administration to bring a treaty to the Senate for ratification.
Risch offered high praise for Trump’s handling of the matter. “We’re really living at a historic time,” he said. “What we’ve seen over the last 24 hours is a really historic milestone as far as peace in the world is concerned.”
Risch said he’s “more hopeful than confident” about the outcome. “We’ve had a bad history with this country,” he said. “They’ve said they’re going to change their ways, they want to do things differently.” If so, he said, the United States wants “to be a willing partner to help them get there.”
He said, “The end game here is to try to get to normalcy. North Korea knows exactly what they have to do … and that is to give up their nuclear ambitions and join the other governments on the stage and have the benefits of a world economy.”