By Laura Litvan, Daniel Flatley, Anna Edgerton, and Bloomberg
February 28, 2019

President Donald Trump received bipartisan praise from members of Congress for walking out of his summit with Kim Jong Un after the two couldn’t reach a deal because of North Korea’s refusal to give up its nuclear weapons program.

“President Trump did the right thing by walking away and not cutting a poor deal for the sake of a photo op,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “smart” for Trump to meet Kim in Singapore and Vietnam to “expose the North Korean delegation to the kind of economic prosperity that could be possible if he were to choose a new path.”

McConnell of Kentucky commended the president for walking away when a deal on denuclearization couldn’t be reached. “Kim Jong Un now has a long train ride home, and he’ll have time to reflect on the future that is still within North Korea’s grasp,” he said.

The North Korean leader had offered to dismantle its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon in exchange for the U.S. dropping sanctions, but the U.S. presented Kim with evidence of additional secret nuclear sites, surprising the North Koreans, according to Trump.

Inadequate Offer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “It’s good that the president did not give him anything for the little he was proposing.” She added, “diplomacy is important; we all support it,” but that she had thought the prospects for an agreement were dim.

Schumer said that “just like the president, I want a deal with North Korea that would bring an end to the conflict and change the course of the region. However, I’ve always been concerned about the possibility of a bad deal, especially with the other pressures currently on the president.”

The minority leader urged Trump to use the same strategy in trade talks with China: “hold out because he has the upper hand, until we get China to do the right thing.”

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on Twitter that talking is never a bad idea and “If outcome is that both missile test moratorium and our sanctions continue, and we keep dialogue going, that’s not a bad outcome.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally, said in a statement, “There is only one good deal: the complete denuclearization of North Korea in return for security guarantees and economic assistance.”

Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter, “Thankfully @POTUS didn’t fall for a deal involving meaningless #NorthKorea measures in exchange for meaningful U.S. concessions.”

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia agreed, saying, “if there’s no deal, you’ve got to walk away from the table.”

However, Pelosi, Kaine and other lawmakers criticized Trump for saying he takes Kim “at his word” that he wasn’t aware of North Korea’s imprisonment and torture of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, who was detained for more than 17 months and died from injuries inflicted while in custody after he was returned to the U.S.

Pelosi said it was “strange” for Trump to have made such a comment. She compared it to Trump believing Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.

Kaine said, “I have no idea why this president continues to be the defense lawyer for dictators who do horrible things.”

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