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Sen. Tim Kaine On What He Hopes To Learn From Pompeo's Foreign Relations Testimony


Tomorrow, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and senators are eager to ask him about President Trump's statements on Russia, Iran and North Korea. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia is on the committee and joins us now for a preview. Senator, welcome to the program.

TIM KAINE: Ari, good to be with you. Thanks.

SHAPIRO: Let's start with Russia. President Putin has told top officials in the Russian government that agreements were reached during the private meeting with President Trump. Over here, it seems like most American officials are still in the dark. What do you hope to learn from Secretary Pompeo tomorrow?

KAINE: Well, Ari, you stated it well. We need to find out what happened in Helsinki, what happened in Singapore and what's behind all the tweeting against Iran all of a sudden. So starting with Helsinki - you're right. On the Russian side, Russian press has indicated that agreements were reached between President Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

But General Votel, for example, the American commander of Central Command which would include Syria and Afghanistan says he hasn't been briefed. So the Senate certainly hadn't been briefed, but military leaders apparently haven't been briefed either. And that raises the questions about, A, were there agreements made? And if so, were they made with or without any military advice?

SHAPIRO: Russia's ambassador to the U.S. says an agreement was made on Syria. So do you see room for the U.S. and Russia to work together there given that the Russian military has bombed groups that the U.S. supports in Syria?

KAINE: Even an adversary - you have to try to find ways to work together. President Kennedy did that with Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis. And there isn't going to be stability in Syria without Russian participation. They've had a naval base in Syria for many, many years, and they've had closer relations with the Syrian government than we have certainly. But the notion that, you know, they're reporting in Russia that there were agreements reached about Syria and our own military leadership - and I mentioned General Votel earlier - Central Command is over the region that includes Syria.

And so if the president is making deals that are military deals and not including military leadership, that's troubling. We've got to ask Secretary Pompeo that. It's been nearly six weeks since the meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong Un, and the administration has not briefed the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee - I'm on both - or the Intelligence Committee about what happened there. So I think you'll see this being a very significant hearing tomorrow with Secretary Pompeo. What's going on with North Korea?


KAINE: What, if anything, was agreed to? What's going on with Vladimir Putin? And then the bellicose rhetoric in all-caps tweeting of the president about Iran this week - you know, my job on these two committees is to reduce the risk of unnecessary war and raise the chance that we win a war if we have to be in it. I think the president is raising the risk of unnecessary war with Iran, and there will be many questions about that as well.

SHAPIRO: I do want to ask about your views on the Iran tweets, but there was also a tweet this morning that I want to ask you about on Russia where President Trump said he's very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election. And then the president said, based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump, this tweet said. Are you going to ask Secretary Pompeo whether he shares this...

KAINE: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: ...View of the president which runs counter to the U.S. intelligence community?

KAINE: Well, I'm sure we will. Look; Ari, that's a laugh-line, that presidential tweet. Everybody saw Vladimir Putin at the press conference stand up...

SHAPIRO: Well, it would be if it weren't a real statement by the sitting president of the United States.

KAINE: And more so than just the sitting president. They asked Vladimir Putin who he wanted to win the 2016 election at the press conference last week. And he said, we definitely wanted President Trump to win. So look; President Trump has this weird way of picking a fight with Justin Trudeau, Theresa May or Angela Merkel and then acting like he's Vladimir Putin's defense lawyer. And he does that consistently. And so the notion that he's now trying to suggest Russia would prefer somebody else other than him - we will dig into that with Secretary Pompeo tomorrow.

SHAPIRO: And just in our last minute, I do want to ask you about Iran because you said in passing you think the likelihood of war is greater than it was, which is a significant statement. Why do you say that?

KAINE: I'm very, very worried. Pulling out of the nuclear deal when our allies in the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was complying with it - all the bellicose statements of many, including Secretary Pompeo but certainly President Trump in Europe, said you should expect an escalation between the United States and Iran. And there's been increasing activity that - you know, bombing in eastern Syria on the Iraq-Syria border of Iranian militias. Press in the region are suggesting the U.S. has been complicit or was aware of some of those bombing runs by Israelis and others against Iranian positions. There are escalated warnings to U.S. troops in the region. And so there's a whole series of things that frankly remind me to the run-up in 2002, 2003...

SHAPIRO: All right.

KAINE: ...With the unnecessary war in Iraq. And we need to worry about that.

SHAPIRO: Lots to discuss. Senator Kaine, thanks for this preview.

KAINE: Absolutely. Thanks, Ari.

SHAPIRO: That's Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will be questioning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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