- REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
The entire US Senate was bused to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to receive a much-hyped classified briefing on North Korea – but some senators emerged unimpressed by the content and the “lack of straight answers” they got from administration officials.
“It was an OK briefing,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.
“What was discussed, I already knew,” Corker said, according to BuzzFeed. “I’m not certain I would have had the briefing today, but I do appreciate – you know, they’ve got a great team that they put together.”
One unnamed senator told Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post’s congressional reporter, “It’s not like we learned some earth-shaking thing that’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Another Republican senator told O’Keefe that the White House did not offer “even straight answers on what the policy is regarding North Korea and its testing of ICBMs,” or intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Republican Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CNN that he “didn’t hear anything new because I have been heavily briefed before.”
“It’s a very serious situation, just as I had [thought] before I went there,” McCain said.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal echoed that assessment, telling O’Keefe that “there was very little, if anything, new.”
“I remain mystified about why the entire Senate had to be taken over to the White House rather than conducting it here,” Blumenthal added, referring to the Capitol.
On board the bus to the 100 days photo op/North Korea briefing. pic.twitter.com/v3Mg7yqrdX
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 26, 2017
“I frankly don’t understand why it’s not easier to bring four people here than it is to take 100 there,” Independent Sen. Angus King told reporters after the briefing.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth put it bluntly.
“It felt more like a dog-and-pony show to me,” she told CNN on Wednesday night. “I seriously felt like I could have gotten all of that information by reading a newspaper.”
Duckworth added that the senators were not presented with any specific plan for how the US would respond should North Korea test a nuclear weapon or attack Japan or South Korea.
A Democratic senator told The New York Times‘ Jonathan Martin, meanwhile, that President Donald Trump appeared at the briefing and did his “ridiculous adjective” bit.
There were “about 80 sets of invisible eyes rolling,” the senator said, according to Martin.
CNN’s Jim Sciutto that there was “no revelation” during the briefing.
It was more a “chance to convey they’re serious,” Murphy said, according to Sciutto.
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen told CNN, “It was pretty much what you’ve been hearing in the press.”
The senators were briefed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, all of whom were “very sober” in their presentation, another senator told O’Keefe.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said the senators were “walked through the diplomatic, the economic, and the military aspects of dealing with North Korea, and all of the steps we’re taking to try to prevent that very dangerous situation from getting even worse,” according to BuzzFeed.
Tillerson, Mattis, and Coats released a joint statement afterward reiterating that “North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority.”
They said members of Congress were briefed about the “thorough review of US policy pertaining to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” that Trump began when he took office in January.
“The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners.”
The statement concluded: “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.”