President Donald Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday that any deal with North Korea must be approved by Congress.
Trump appeared on Hannity in an interview conducted in Singapore, shortly after the president wrapped up his summit with North Korean Kim Jong-un.
Trump’s remarks came in the midst of a discussion of the flaws in earlier international agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal (4:27 to 4:48 in the Fox News video):
TRUMP: I would say that the Iran deal was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I will say, speaking of the Iran deal, since we got out of that deal — and we could do it very easily, because they never had it approved by Congress, it was just President [Barack] Obama —
HANNITY: This must be approved by Congress.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I want it to be approved by Congress, ’cause otherwise it’s really, doesn’t mean very much. I would think anybody would want it approved by Congress.
President Obama refused to send the Iran deal to the U.S. Senate for ratification by a two-thirds majority, as the Treaty Clause of the U.S. Constitution arguably required.
His administration resisted, then reluctantly signed, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which theoretically allowed both houses of Congress to disapprove of the deal by a majority vote. However, that law allowed Obama to veto a motion of disapproval, and to defeat an override easily simply by marshaling more than one-third of either house behind the deal. And in the end, the Democratic Party filibustered a vote on the Iran deal in the U.S. Senate, meaning Congress had no say at all.
Trump’s commitment to bring any deal with North Korea to Congress could be a sign that he respects the Constitution more than Obama did. It could also indicate that he understands negotiation far better than Obama.
By declaring that any deal with North Korea must be approved by Congress — which, certainly in the case of the U.S. Senate, would mean earning the support of a significant number of his political opponents — Trump is showing North Korea that he has very little room to compromise. By tying his own hands, so to speak, he gains leverage in future talks. To reach a deal, it is the North Korean dictator — ironically, perhaps — who will have to be flexible.
In the same way, Trump’s domestic critics — including Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Never Trump Republicans like Erick Erickson — are helping him, unwittingly, by showing North Korea just how difficult it will be to reach a deal unless it can approach the high standards Trump’s opposition demands.
President Obama never understood the way he could use constitutional constraints, and domestic opposition, to strengthen his negotiating position with Iran. Instead, he accused his critics of making “common cause” with the hard-liners in Iran shouting “death to America.” In so doing, Obama showed the Iranian regime that he would be willing to defend almost any deal, and the result was a weak agreement.
Trump is clearly following a different tack.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.