Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the intelligence committee, has defended President Trump’s reluctance to talk about Russia as a threat, as well as his strategy with North Korea so far.
Burr, whose committee is running one of Congress’ probes into Russian meddling and whether there was any collusion by the Trump campaign, was asked by New York Times correspondent David Sanger why Trump would not talk about Russia as a threat. Trump critics suggest it is because his campaign colluded with Russia to win the election.
But Burr said, first, that he thought the reason was that there are other countries — North Korea and Iran — that are more pressing concerns for the United States right now.
“Those seem to be the two hotbeds in the world right now from a standpoint of less than perfect relationships that we have,” he said at the discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations on December 6.
But he also said he believed it was the president’s style to preserve room to negotiate with Russia. Trump during his campaign talked about wanting better relations with Moscow to deal with foreign policy issues, such as international terrorism. The Obama administration had also tried to “reset” the relationship.
“The president said when he ran, and I think he practiced in business the ability to go to a table and the person across the table not to have a clue as to where he’s coming from, and i think in many cases, that’s his art of negotiating. I think he’s continued that in his role as president,” Burr said.
“It is uncomfortable sometimes for members of Congress. It is uncomfortable sometimes for the American people. It is his style. I don’t think it’s going to change. At the end of the day he will be judged just like every president is by what they say in the books that they write after you’re gone,” he said.
He also said he finds that experts will criticize him on his style, but when it comes down to it, don’t have much criticism on the content of his foreign policy so far, at least on North Korea.
“It has also been amazing to me as I search out…individuals who have been in certain fields for a long time, negotiated deals with North Korea in the past, and sat down with him and said, ‘What do you think about the president’s North Korea strategy right now?”
“And was amazed that many that I respect said, ‘I can’t disagree with it,'” he said.
“It’s almost a sport of public criticism towards how he does, but when you get down to the content of what he does, what I’m finding is that people who I perceive as subject experts don’t have too much critical to say about the content of what he does,” he said.
Here’s his full remarks: