May 02, 2018

Senators to Congressional Leadership: Call on Trump Administration to Keep Congress Fully Informed about North Korea Negotiations

Request Briefing on Strategy for Nuclear Talks Prior to any Trump-Kim Summit; Recent Historical Precedent Exists for the White House Keeping Congress Briefed During International Negotiations

Text of letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led 27 of her Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) urging them to request a commitment from the Trump Administration for sustained engagement with Congress throughout the upcoming direct negotiations with North Korea. The senators requested that congressional leadership ask the Administration to provide a briefing on its strategy for negotiation prior to any Trump-Kim summit, including senior officials from the Departments of Defense, State, Energy, and Treasury, and representatives from the Intelligence Community. They also asked for monthly subsequent briefings to ensure that Congress is fully informed as any potential negotiations proceed.

The White House's steady and substantive communication with Congress is necessary for a successful diplomatic outcome with North Korea that ensures the security of the United States and its allies. There is recent historical precedent for the White House keeping Congress consistently informed during delicate international negotiations. During the negotiations between the United States, its allies and partners, and Iran to secure the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in July 2015, the Obama Administration held frequent classified briefings for members of Congress, answered questions regularly in hearings before congressional committees, and provided regular briefings to appropriately cleared congressional staff.

"We welcome the Trump Administration's pursuit of diplomacy to address the threat posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea, and we strongly hope for success," wrote the senators. "The more the White House engages with Congress on its progress in negotiations, the more effective partner that Congress can be to support a peaceful resolution to this crisis."

In their letter, the senators observed that Congress has played a significant role in shaping United States policy toward North Korea. Congress authored a series of tough sanctions on North Korea, notably the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 and the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. These measures, passed overwhelmingly and on a bipartisan basis, represent an effective non-military tool of American power that has imposed significant costs on the Kim regime and influenced its strategic calculus in favor of dialogue over its nuclear and missile programs. The senators also noted that Congress must remain well-informed throughout any talks with the Kim regime particularly if an agreement requires the removal of sanctions as an inducement to North Korea taking steps toward denuclearization.