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Rep. Francis Rooney On North Korea And Iran Deal


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting North Korea's neighbors. In South Korea and in China, he is promoting President Trump's summit with North Korea's leader.



MIKE POMPEO: Japan, the Republic of Korea and now China have all acknowledged that we have turned the corner, that we have begun a process away from the threat of war and towards a peace on the peninsula.

INSKEEP: Congressman Francis Rooney is a Republican from Florida, also the vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And he's in our studios.

Congressman, thanks for coming by.

FRANCIS ROONEY: Steve, thanks for having me on.

INSKEEP: As I imagine you know, President Trump said yesterday there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea - his words. Do you believe that?


ROONEY: Well, I think it's a start. I think that, as James Clapper said yesterday, we're in a better place now than we were before. But there's a lot of work to be done to turn this into reality.

INSKEEP: Just to be clear on this, the president could have said, look, it's the start of the process, we're just getting going, we have a lot of work to do. Instead, he said it's all solved. Do you have any reason that he would not just state the truth?

ROONEY: Well, you know, this line of business, the one that I'm in and he's in, there's a lot of hyperbole and things like that. But the fact is he's made a dramatic move. And he's got China and North Korea engaged in a way that none of his predecessors has been able to do despite a lot of efforts.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's talk about what the next step is. You have said that a successful deal - there's not really a deal yet - to you, a successful deal would be somewhat like the Iran nuclear deal. What do you mean by that?

ROONEY: Well, I think it would stop the continued nuclearization and be verifiable. It'd have to be better than the Iran agreement in the sense of verifiable in all areas. The defect with the Iran agreement is we can't get on their military bases and see what they're doing there. And then it also allows them to still develop ballistic missiles while they're denuclearizing otherwise.

INSKEEP: Now, you're mentioning very real critiques of the Iran nuclear deal that were made. And it's interesting here because the statement that the two presidents signed at the summit doesn't include the word verifiable. They talked about complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, didn't get the word verifiable in there. Secretary of State Pompeo was asked about that yesterday and got a little upset, said it was insulting to even ask the question because it's assumed that it's going to be in there. Is it enough for it just to be assumed that there will be verification?

ROONEY: Well, there's a lot of things that are assumed that the words of - we're moving towards complete denuclearization - mean. And verification is certainly one of them. You can't have anything that you can't verify. What did President Reagan used to say - trust but verify?

INSKEEP: So there has to be unlimited review, unlimited inspections throughout North Korea for this to be a satisfactory deal from your point of view.

ROONEY: Yeah, I would think so. If we're going to say they're denuclearized, we have to be able to assure the American people that they're, in truth and in fact, denuclearized.

INSKEEP: Let me ask another thing. If we looked forward in this process, we see a long-running process. We anticipate at the end some kind of deal that might involve a treaty that'd be ratified by the United States Senate. But the comparison with Iran is instructive because it's a negotiation. It ends up being a compromise. You get some things; you don't get others. It's going to be imperfect. Do you think it is possible to make an agreement with North Korea that would get through the United States Senate given that any compromise is going to be something you can pick apart?

ROONEY: Well, I would hope so. You know, one of the whole problems we face right now - we face it perhaps with the ZTE thing, too - is the erosion of congressional authority relative to the executive branch. And I wish that they had gotten the Iran deal to the point of having a treaty that would be ratified by the Senate in whatever change it might have had to have than to have acted unilaterally by the executive branch.

INSKEEP: ZTE - this is the Chinese company that's receiving massive penalties and the administration wants to back off again. Isn't Congress moving to block the administration's authority to do that?

ROONEY: There are some people moving that way. And I look at it not about ZTE and China and all that. I look at it more constitutionally, that it's important that Congress have a role in what the United States is doing abroad outside of the president's executive core powers.

INSKEEP: Wow. This gets, actually, to a big issue that Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised on the floor of the Senate this very week. He has a concern about trade and the president's imposing tariffs and wanted a measure that would give Congress more authority to block the president when he does that. He's not even getting a vote on it. He described the Republican Party as becoming cultlike in its devotion to President Trump and its reluctance to even vote on anything that might offend the president. Is the Republican Party going that way?

ROONEY: Well, I certainly hope not. You know? I think it's very important that we have separation of powers. It's one of the things that's protected American institutions from all kinds of problems for 240 years. And the whole trade situation needs to be ratified by the Congress instead of unilaterally imposed.

INSKEEP: Well, what are you going to do about that?

ROONEY: Well, let's see what they let us vote on.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

ROONEY: I'm not in the leadership. I'm just a peon from the first term.

INSKEEP: Well, OK, why aren't your leaders asserting themselves a little bit more?

ROONEY: Well, you're starting to see some people do it. I think you saw Senator Corker and other people say that we have to be careful what we do with trade. You know, there was an article in the...

INSKEEP: But that's someone who is being trapped by his leadership. Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader; Paul Ryan, the House speaker have said they're all about separation of powers. They're doing their job. But they don't allow votes on things like that.

ROONEY: Yeah, there's a lot of things they don't allow votes on that I wish they would.

INSKEEP: So where do you go from here?

ROONEY: Well, I think one place we go is we need to get all the facts on the table about trade. There was an article in The Washington Post yesterday - or The Wall Street Journal, I'm not sure - talked about products that have 15 percent or more tariffs - Canada, 7 percent; Mexico, 5 percent; U.S., 2.8 percent. So if we just get all the facts on the table, it might be easier to see what the president is trying to get at, the same time not undermine our multilateral agreements.

INSKEEP: Congressman Francis Rooney, thanks for coming by. I enjoyed talking with you.

ROONEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.