Policy

How the Hill Reacted to the Trump-Kim Summit

Reaction ranges from a ‘huge deal’ to a ‘bi-lateral con job’

President Donald Trump answers a final question while departing a news conference following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday in Singapore. Trump described his meeting with Kim as “better than anyone could have expected.” (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump made history Tuesday in Singapore as the first American president to meet face-to-face with a leader of North Korea since the Kim dynasty sprouted on the peninsula roughly seven decades ago.

At the heart of negotiations was the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula in exchange for “security guarantees” for the North’s mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un.

Trump agreed to end joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises along the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, a tangible concession that drew criticism from a number of lawmakers back home.

As the day of meetings between the two presidents and members of their senior staffs unfolded and they headed home, here’s how U.S. lawmakers reacted:

Cautious optimism

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise described positive steps from the meeting, such as Kim saying he’s willing to take steps toward denuclearization.

Scalise has concerns about whether, after years of saber rattling, denuclearization will actually happen, he said early Tuesday. But he noted that the “war games” with South Korea that Trump said he will end, will continue if the North Korean leader doesn’t follow through on his commitments.

Checked pessimism

Many lawmakers from both parties, while unready to declare the summit a diplomatic victory or defeat, remained skeptical the U.S. could successfully negotiate a deal toward peace with Kim — but are letting the process play out.

Sen. Lindsey Graham does not have an issue with halting joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea while discussions with North Korea continue.

But the South Carolina Republican said Trump would face opposition to any move to withdraw American forces from South Korea.

“I am willing to do a lot of things to get [Kim] to give up their nuclear weapons and end their missile program. You know, he can have a membership at Trump National,” Graham said on CBS, referring to Trump’s golf course. “I really don’t care how generous we are as long as we don’t go too far when it comes to our troop presence. At the end of the day, this is our last best chance to end this conflict without a war.”

“He can come to the White House as long as he gives up his nuclear program, gives up his missile program. Sen. [Charles E.] Schumer laid out what a good deal would look like,” Graham said. “I’m a realist. I’m not trying to bring democracy to North Korea. I’m not trying to unify South Korea and North Korea.”

High praise

Conservative House Republicans were unrepentant in their praise for the president for engaging with North Korea, a sharp reversal from many of their views on similar negotiations between President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran.

Dissed by Democrats

A large contingent of Democrats criticized the president and his staff for tentatively granting a number of concessions to the North Koreans, including a pause on military exercises in South Korea and even meeting with Kim in the first place to lend his leadership legitimacy on the international stage.

Niels Lesniewski and Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

Watch: Pelosi Says She Supports North Korea Talks

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