VIDEO - Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined CNN New Day to discuss the administration's efforts to revoke security clearances of former top officials, and the President's comments about Iran: “I just don't find an all-caps midnight tweet the most credible of actions in terms of pushing back against them.”
“Rather than following President Trump’s tweets and the red herrings that he’s been putting out, we should be focusing on our responsibility to strengthen our infrastructure, to protect our upcoming election, and to help the American people be clear-eyed about the very real threat that Putin’s Russia presents to the United States,” Coons said.
On security clearances:
Frankly, the idea that a few career intelligence officials who served across both Republican and Democratic administrations should have their security clearances revoked is a pure distraction. It’s also, just frankly, being petty. Most of these officials either don’t use their security clearances or have no relevant access to classified information anymore. And I’ll note that the list of who’s being singled out exactly coincides with those who’ve been publicly critical of the president. This is the sort of attack on free speech, the press, and the rights of individuals to speak out in our country that really doesn’t serve the president well.
By focusing on the important matters in front of us, which is more developments in information about the attack by Russia on the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, yesterday, released for the first time, in an unclassified setting, more detailed information that Russian hackers managed to get into the control rooms of hundreds of power utilities in the United States.
And so, if folks out there watching think somehow that Mueller’s investigation is a rigged witch hunt, as our president strikingly continues to insist, there is more and more building information that Russia continues to be our most aggressive foreign adversary. Rather than following President Trump’s tweets and the red herrings that he’s been putting out, we should be focusing on our responsibility to strengthen our infrastructure, to protect our upcoming election, and to help the American people be clear-eyed about the very real threat that Putin’s Russia presents to the United States.
I complemented President Trump for taking sanctions action against Russia when he did. I’ll remind you that bill passed the Senate 98-2. That’s a veto proof majority if I ever saw one. The president opposed our pushing him to take those sanctions actions, but he did, and I think he took the right action against Bashar al-Assad in Syria by striking his military assets when he used a poison gas against his own people again. I think those were the right steps for the president to take. B
The Trump administration has dragged its feet on implementing sanctions against Russia. If we want to deter the sort of aggressive action against our 2018 election that President Trump’s own director of national intelligence recently predicted, we should take up and pass the bipartisan DETER Act that Senators Rubio and Van Hollen have put forward. I’m a cosponsor. It would impose tougher sanctions on Russia if they continued to interfere in our elections, in our November elections just four months from now.
Look, Iran continues to be one of the greatest state sponsors of terrorism in the world. They have been aggressive. They have expanded their reach throughout the region. Their support of the Houthis in Yemen, their support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which is in partnership with the Russians, and their aggressive expansion of their reach throughout the arc of the Middle East, from Iran, through Iraq, into Syria, into Lebanon, and their ongoing threats against Israel in southern Lebanon and southwest Syria, make them a country of grave concern to us. And I do think that we need to be tough against them. I guess I just don’t find an all-caps midnight tweet the most credible of actions in terms of pushing back against them. I do think that this Wednesday the Foreign Relations Committee has an important opportunity to question Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on what is our strategy against Iran. President Trump walked away from the Iran Nuclear Deal, which although it had its limitations, was working. I haven’t heard any strategy for how we will replace that, and I’m concerned that the administration’s strategy is a regime change strategy; one which I doubt will be successful.
On Kavanaugh nomination:
I first want there to be an agreement about the release of the documents relating to his five years of service in the Bush administration and his time serving with Judge Starr’s independent counsel team. He has a very long and detailed record. Much of it public, his decisions as a member of the D.C. Circuit Court, but much of it is not, his work at the highest levels of the Bush administration. And as we saw just last Thursday, there have been Trump nominees for senior judicial positions, who once we really know the full extent of their record, even Republicans failed to support.
Coons on whether he will meet with Judge Kavanaugh:
Of course I will meet with Judge Kavanaugh. I think we need to have an agreement in place first about the production of the documents necessary for any senator, in particular a senator on the Judiciary Committee, to begin the laborious process of digging through his whole record, so that I can ask questions that are well-informed, at his confirmation hearing, and in a personal meeting.