For the second episode of Politico Magazine’s Susan B. Glasser’s new podcast, The Global Politico, she sat down with Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A transcript of Glasser and Corker’s conversation, and the podcast, follows:
Hello, I’m Susan Glasser. Thank you for joining us again on The Global POLITICO. I’m absolutely delighted to have Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as one of our very earliest guests on this podcast. He is someone I’ve been wanting to speak to during this three weeks, which seems in many ways like three years, of the Trump administration.
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One of the missions of The Global POLITICO is to take people behind the scenes and into the stories that are driving global politics, but from people who are sitting in the chair, who are not just pundits, who are not just analyzing things. And I can think of few people in Washington who both have this global view that Senator Corker has, but also are really watching this transition actually happen in real time.
And I was thinking about that on the way up here to Capitol Hill on this beautiful morning that, you know, in the Obama era it meant one thing to be the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Republicans controlled the Senate and you were in a way, sort of a key interlocutor between this Democratic administration and the Republicans who run things up here in the Senate.
Now, in the last three weeks, we’ve seen, of course, a Republican takeover of all the branches of government and yet the job in some ways has changed significantly, especially since we’re all still trying to figure out what exactly is the Trump administration foreign policy.
Glasser: So much to discuss. Senator Corker, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Let’s just jump right in. An “America First” foreign policy, that’s what President Donald Trump promised us. We don’t really know what it means exactly yet in a practical sense. You have a Republican majority here on your committee and in the Senate overall, but on Russia, on NATO, on trade and various other issues, it seems to me that Trump and the Senate Republicans couldn’t in some ways be farther apart. How does the circle get squared?
Corker: First of all, thanks for having me, and I appreciate you doing this. I think it’s a great public service to talk with people in this manner. So look, I have foreign leaders in my office every day, multiple folks in yesterday, and they’re all trying to discern that too. They’re here to understand what their relationship is going to be with the United States and this president and this administration.
And so here’s to me the best and most healthy way of looking at it. There are nuggets in each of these statements and proclamations that have a root that is real. Just like with NATO—I spent yesterday with my counterpart from Germany and a couple days ago the foreign minister from Germany. And I’ll be in Munich next weekend at the Munich Security Conference.
But with NATO, there is an issue there. And we have countries that we’ve had a relationship with for a long time that are not contributing the amount that they’re supposed to contribute to NATO. So, that nugget has been there. Madeleine Albright has been before our committee complaining about it. I complain about it every year. And finally, there’s a president that’s making a big deal out of that. I actually think that’s a healthy thing, as long as we continue to understand the strong importance of the NATO alliance, and what it means to our own security. What it means to the world’s security.
So, in each of these cases, what I see happening is an evolution. OK? Where you have someone who was, you know, on a campaign trail. His focus group was these rallies that were taking place. He heard himself say things, and he could see the crowd respond. And in many cases there was again, that nugget that is a root of something that’s real. But over time it can be refined and evolved into something that actually creates a good policy. So NATO would be an example.
You know, the trade issue—I traveled with him one day for reasons that you’re aware of, and you know, in trade, look, we have 4½ percent of the world’s population in America. We’ve got 22 percent of the world’s economic output. And if we want the standard of living for Americans to continue to grow we’ve got to do business with people around the world.
And so to me, trade is an important thing. At the same time, are there some anomalies that exist? Look, we recruited a lot of car manufacturing to our state. We are aware that in some cases we’re competing directly with Mexico for lots of reasons, whether it’s a tariff reason or a labor reason. There’s no question that our state’s resources have been spent in incentive agreements and other kinds of things to overcome those things.
So, there is a little bit of a something there that needs to be addressed. I think we’ve got a president in Mexico that’s willing to address that. And I had the Canadian foreign minister in yesterday—
Glasser: My friend and college classmate.
Corker: And she’s very sharp, and I had a great meeting with her. And she—but you know, my point is, is that what we should attempt to do is to take those nuggets that are real and help as a Senate, evolve them into a policy that is a positive, but doesn’t take away from the strong alliances that we have with other people.
And understand that the president is really not against free trade. He wants to see more bilateral agreements. I think we’ve got an opportunity right now to do something. I met with Theresa May not long ago. I think we’ve got a tremendous opportunity to have a trade agreement with U.K. I think the same thing is going to occur with Japan, and we begin to build off of that.
So, it’s taking nuggets, massaging them, evolving them to a little bit different place. I see that as a challenging, but a very positive role for us to play.
Glasser: So, you are clearly an optimist in the way that dealmakers and senators often are. But evolving is not a word most people associate with Donald Trump. Is there any evidence to you that Donald Trump wants to evolve?
Corker: I know he’s going to visit NATO in May and has given strong assurances to our NATO allies that Article V will be, if it occurs, hopefully, it never does, but you know, we’ll be there.
I look at, for instance, just at our policies with Israel. I mean, they began in a place. I happened to be again, at Trump Tower on another occasion and know that their views relative to Israel at that moment in time were, you know, potentially a fairly strong departure from what has been sort of the U.S. view of the long haul best place for Israel to be with a two-state solution.
And now you see discussions about slowing settlements down with Prime Minister Netanyahu. And so again, yes, I see some evolutions taking place. Again, you look at a businessperson who’s, you know, never been in these roles. We sit up here every day and have these hearings nonstop. I’ve been here ten years. It’s a Ph.D. in things, and you begin, you know, you develop an understanding that is deep on these. You understand the relationships. You understand the complexities. He’s, I think, moving towards that end.
Another example—I was over the other day with the national security adviser. And look, I see a person who’s setting up shop much like Brent Scowcroft did. It’s not what people thought where he was going to be an autocrat running, and he was going to make decisions. I see him as a person who really is taking input from [Secretary of Defense James] Mattis and will from [Secretary of State] Tillerson and others and creating a real interagency process. That is great for our nation.
So again, yes, I wish some of the things that were said and tweeted didn’t happen. But I do see a situation where there are some really bright people engaged that we can engage with ourselves and evolve and take these nuggets to a place that could be good for our country.
Glasser: Let’s pick back up here on this question of tweeting and diplomacy in the Trump era. You have been meeting with a lot of foreign visitors. You called the ambassador from Australia after the reports of the very contentious phone call between Donald Trump and the Australian prime minister.
First of all, tell us a little bit about, how that went. When I talked with Jim Baker for this podcast he pointed out, and clearly it’s true, that some of our allies these days are pretty much scared to death of the kind of disruptions that they fear could be coming.
Corker: I think that’s true. Part of the meetings that we have with people is, if they’re wanting advice on how to approach this new administration, then who within the administration they should contact and talk with about setting up meetings and then the type of things that should be avoided, if you will
So I, look, I think that’s true, and I do hope that that will be brought to a minimum over time. Again, I look at people like Rex Tillerson, who’s come in, who I think is going to be really good for this administration. I think he’s a pragmatic, thoughtful person who is going to have a plan and is going to work it. And a very stable guy—was at a company for 42 years.
I have a sense that over time, at least I hope for our nation that over time, some of the disruptions that may not take us to a good place will over time be more minimal.
So, there’s no question though that people come in, I’m an honest, candid person, and they’re—yeah, they’re shaken up by some of what’s happening and wondering how they should approach us and the administration.
Glasser: What was your takeaway? You mentioned—you met, obviously, with Donald Trump a couple different times. What have your personal interactions been with him, as you’re giving people advice and thought. Most of the rest of us are left looking at the Twitter feed for a sense of what is going on. And clearly, one thing is, there’s not a lot of filter. What about in person? Is there a lot of filter? How do you approach him? Was he curious about the world when you met with him? What was your interaction with him like on a personal level?
Corker: I’m reticent to go into too much detail because I don’t think it’s appropriate to meet with people and then go out and talk publicly about things. But I’ll generally phrase things in this manner. I mean, yes, we went around the world. I did find myself in most cases and almost every case but maybe one, offering an alternative view.
I mean, yes, we went around the world. I did find myself in most cases and almost every case but maybe one, offering an alternative view.
I think he develops preconceived notions, but I think on the other hand, can listen. And I think that he has people around him—Jared Kushner is probably the most influential person relative to things like this, his son-in-law.
He has others though that he listens to and takes input from. I’ve already seen it. I mean, I look at my moment in time, my last meeting at Trump Plaza, and I look at where he is today, and I already—I can assure you based on the conversation that we had that went entirely around the world, and now looking at where they are, I see the evolution that I referred to earlier. So he has to listen for that evolution to have taken place. Very energetic. I mean, he can move around quickly from topic to topic. And I think one of the challenges is to—when you’re sitting in front of him and talking about a policy issue, is to keep the focus on that policy issue that’s being discussed.
But other than that, I don’t think I want to characterize any more. I mean, he really does have people that are committed. I do think that one of his tendencies is he’s seen Washington, rightly so, it’s not really meeting the needs of the American people. Let’s face it, you look at the Bernie Sanders campaign, and you look at the Donald Trump campaign, the majority of people here in our country have not been satisfied with the direction our country has been going. Their needs are not being met for whatever reason.
I think he has internalized that. And sometimes when you come into a situation like this, it’s like a wrecking ball, right? You want to just destroy everything about it. My guess is that over time he’s developing an appreciation for some of the institutions, some of the things around here that maybe are not quite as negative as was thought. And yet at the same time, keeping that fire, if you will, regarding being a disruptive force.
And I think the challenge is going to be—I’m being honest—so you want to do deals, deals, deals. Or you want to disrupt this and this and this. You’ve got to decide towards what end. And I think that’s the place where hopefully, our role here, but also those around him can help channel and move to a place where you actually know why it is that you’re disrupting. Why it is you want to make a deal. Towards what end are you moving? And hopefully, there’s a lot of work being done on that.
Glasser: I think that’s a really crucial point. At what point do the disruptions meet the deals? At some point, if you want to be known as a dealmaker, you’re going to have to figure out what you’re willing to do in terms of a deal. So—
Corker: And where you’re going with that.
Glasser: Well, exactly. So let’s talk about the politics of foreign policy here on Capitol Hill because that is part of where deals will come from, certainly is from you and your members. What are their big concerns right now? When we go back to this list of Russia, NATO, trade, where do you see kind of bright lines emerging for them?
For example, Russia sanctions seem to be one early example where, I may have inadvertently triggered some of this, in fact by tweeting that I heard that, which I did and from very reliable sources in the government, or I wouldn’t have tweeted it, that they were actively working on an executive order to roll back some of the sanctions. Obviously, some are legal. That seemed to cause an uproar here on Capitol Hill. And Senator McConnell was very firm. Tell me a little bit about how that played out.
Corker: I don’t think there’s any question about that. The Russia issue is the one that has most unsettled people. Some of the reaction has been real. And some of it has been political. I mean, there’s still this sort of overhang from the race, and what did Russia do to involve itself in the election.
Personally, I’m beyond all that. Meaning that yes, I believe that things evolved within Russia. I think there’s no question that the nefarious things that we’ve read about in the paper, yes, they occurred. I don’t debate that.
I think that on the Democratic side they’re still having some difficulties moving beyond the outcome of the election, which is very understandable. … And then there’s the reality that all of us who do not think Russia is a good actor, every president—the last two presidents have thought maybe they would attempt to have a better relationship with [Vladimir] Putin. And in one way or another, quickly they realized who he was, and not a good partner. And certainly has been a very disruptive force.
Took advantage of—I think during the last four years of the Obama administration, I don’t—I’m not saying this to be pejorative, but I don’t think he ever felt there was going to be any real action taken against him. And he has obviously taken full advantage of that and reshaped things in a way that’s been favorable to Russia and helped destabilize Europe in a big way.
And look, I do not see Russia as a friend of the United States in any form or fashion. Are there some things that we might be able to work together on? Sure. We certainly haven’t seen evidence of their desire to fight terrorism with us. I mean, we see them kill civilians, and you know, help [Syrian President Bashar] Assad concentrate more fully his power.
And obviously, they’ve got issues of naval bases and other kind of things that are important to them and Syria in particular. But I think the Russia piece is the piece that most people have been concerned about. I was over there last week. I don’t get any sense—when this podcast is over I may read a tweet that is different from this. I don’t get any sense that there’s a focus right now on lifting sanctions.
Do I think there was some toying with that? Maybe. But I think there’s been very—I think they’ve seen the strong pushback from everyone here. Now again, so I want to deal with reality here and not political messaging.
Glasser: But there is a reality too, that there’s a president of the United States, who has been given every opportunity to say all the things that you just said—
Glasser: —about Vladimir Putin and about Russia, and not only has he not done that, he has doubled down on his favorable views toward Russia and of course, sparked enormous outrage among your colleagues here on Capitol Hill, as well as more broadly with his comment just the other day in an interview before the Super Bowl, where he said that he couldn’t agree with criticism of Putin and that it was in effect hypocritical because we’re killers too, here in America. Is that something that you agree with?
Corker: I see no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia. I know they do. Look, I’ve spent time with their ambassador. And when you hear their point of view, I’m sure you have too—and I think it’s always good by the way, to hear the other point of view relative to Ukraine, Crimea, NATO’s infringement on their boundaries and the pressure it places on them.
So look, they’ve got grievances. But I don’t see the moral equivalency at all, and so I would strongly disagree with that. So here, here you just pointed to something that is—that I would observe. Yes. He doubled down, right, when challenged.
So, as I look at the bills that are coming through here, there’s a little bit of a political messaging tone, but also some substance wrapped up in them. I’m sorry. It’s just the way that it is. Is that really the best way to approach a double-down kind of president? Or is it best to help the team and others evolve to a different way, excuse me, to a different place. Is that a better approach? And that’s the approach right now that I’m taking.
Okay. Sure, I don’t trust Putin at all. I think he’s a —I don’t trust Russia at all. They’ve been bad actors certainly in most recent times. But there’s beginning to be some thinking, okay, what is it that we could work with Russia on that would make sense? What would be a big challenge to try to overcome? Would it be Iran’s influence in Syria, which is beginning to bubble up? I know Henry Kissinger has spoken to that and others. What are some of the areas where we might attempt to see if Russia could possibly do something that would be constructive, for instance, in the Middle East.
So again, instead of trying to approach it in a way where you know he’s going to double-down, is there a way to influence their thinking in a way that leads us to a better policy for the United States?
Glasser: So, before we move on from Russia, there’s so much else in the world. But I’ve got to ask you. I’m sure you’re getting this question all the time. I certainly am—what is it about Putin and Trump that has caused such a sort of stubborn persistence in his rhetoric and seeming affinity for him. Nobody can really understand it, right, which has really given rise to every kind of conspiracy theory and concern even about what’s not being disclosed, given the intervention in the election.
Corker: So, this will probably get me in a lot of trouble. But I think in many ways the president views himself as someone who has the ability to overcome every obstacle and to do something that no other president has been able to do. And I think that’s the way he views himself, as it relates to his legacy and how history will view him.
And so he looks at Russia, looks at Putin. He looks at the relationship that we have. I do think there is a degree of admiration for a strongman. I’m sorry. And I think that part is somewhat real. But I think what’s the major motivation, and this is just me, I certainly haven’t heard this from anyone else. It’s just my observation.
I think that for a person who is breaking glass and wanting to reshape the world, and thinks that so much about it is wrong, and that the Americans have gotten a bad deal, and the way we’ve done things has been inappropriate — for him to create a different kind of relationship with Russia, and especially someone who is strong like Putin, I think he views that as something that would show that he has the ability to do things that no other president has been able to do.
Glasser: That’s a very interesting insight. Of course, we don’t know the answer, but the single biggest question you must get from almost everybody I would imagine, is about Russia. But let’s move on because there’s so many other things in the world today.
You called attention to one of them. You mentioned when you first went to Trump Tower they were clearly in one place on Israel. And right now we’re less sure.
Now, of course, Trump, as you said, could tweet something at any time. He’s going to be meeting next week in person with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that could produce a new sense of things.
But it was your view that they were basically ready to move the embassy to Jerusalem. What do you think is the state of play right now? And what do you and your members up here on the Hill support?
Corker: So, I think at one point they were ready to move the Embassy at 12:01 on January 20th. Maybe 12—
Corker: —30 seconds. So I think that was going to be their first move at one point. I think that—and just for what it’s worth, I mean, my question at the time is, how does Israel feel about that? They’ve never had a closer relationship with the Arab world. I mean, the Iran deal—to me, it was not the kind of agreement we should have entered into. And I led the efforts against it here in the Senate.
But the one plus in the Iran deal is it brought the Arab community close to Israel. And so there’s a real working relationship there right now. More than I think many of the Arab leaders even want their citizens to know.
So when you’ve got a situation like that, do you really want to destroy this alliance that is unprecedented and is real? So, I think Israel is ready for that to happen and for the embassy to move to Jerusalem. And I think that what the Trump administration has got to do, if they choose to do it—I know that next week we plan to have the hearing for the ambassador. My guess is they may be waiting now until after that ambassador is confirmed to make additional moves.
Glasser: They sent the nomination up to you then?
Corker: They have—I think we’ve gotten everything but the FBI report, and we’re waiting on that. And as soon as that comes, we’re going to have the hearing. I think it could well be next Thursday.
Corker: But I think that they’ve got to communicate to the Arab world that this is not doing away or dampening in any way the two-state solution. And so there’s a lot of communication that’s got to come with this. I know the king of Jordan was here last week.
Glasser: You saw him.
Corker: I did. … He’s sort of the Henry Kissinger of that part of the world, right, which he enjoys hearing. And it is true, and we do always love listening to his view of the region. And I think he does a great job with that.
But he’s got to have a lot of investment with his own citizens in this two-state solution. And so anything that flies in the face of that is—could be viewed as a diss, if you will, to him. And so he’s very sensitive about it.
But again, if it’s communicated properly, I think that—and I think it will be communicated if it’s done properly. My sense is, they’re probably still moving there. But I think they’re probably doing some of the things that your interview with Jim Baker indicated needs to happen, preparation.
Glasser: So the king might have been influential on sort of the stylistic approach—
Corker: Well, I don’t know. I think they were already moving in that direction, and I think—again, you’ve got to think about it. I mean, their focus group, their focus groups were these campaign rallies and let’s face it, they didn’t have a lot of institutional support.
One of the things they’re able to do, for instance, with their ambassadors, they don’t have a lot of wealthy folks who gave a lot of money to them that they have to worry about going to these prime locations around the world. They’re able to put the very best and brightest people they can into these positions in embassies around the world, unfettered by people putting pressure on them because they support them.
But in missing some of that institutional support, I think there’s an evolution that is occurring right now, as they get a greater sense of some of the complexities that exist.
Glasser: Well, let’s talk about complexities when it comes to the Arab world, and how they are feeling about this temporary refugee ban. And obviously, there are so many elements to this controversy at this point.
But you know, first of all, you, along with many others, criticized it for having been very “poorly implemented.” You heard from the White House, were they actively pushing back against that? Or is that more sort of rhetorical?
Corker: I would say within 20 minutes of my release going out—
Glasser: 20 minutes.
Corker: —I got a call. So, no, they were actively pushing back and didn’t like the incoming—so no, they were very much pushing back. On the other hand, you know, you saw General Kelly yesterday in his testimony agreed that they probably should have put it back. We had people in midair, who took off from wherever, and in midair the executive order went out; and therefore, what was their future?
And so, I think things like this—the bad guy issue—well, the bad guys could have taken advantage. I’m sorry. I think that’s not real based on how travel takes place.
So, I think they’ve learned from that. I actually think, based on what I know, that was a good thing for Reince Priebus. You read this morning where they now have a—
Glasser: A process on executive orders.
Corker: —they’ve got a ten-point checklist. And I think what it really did was illustrate how, look, we’ve got to go about this —I go back to Jim Baker, you know, the preparation matters. Reince knows that. I think it’s actually been great for Reince, in helping create some order to how things like this are rolled out.
Glasser: What are the foreign policy implications? You look at those seven countries on the list and much of the attention here in the United States was understandably on the human consequence, right?
Glasser: And the sort of baby who couldn’t come for surgery and things like that. But in terms of foreign policy or intelligence, I’ve talked with some folks in the intelligence world, who are particularly concerned about very direct implications of our fight on the ground. We’re on the ground with partners in Iraq, fighting in Mosul right now against the Islamic State. What have you seen and heard of that, and how concerned are you?
We have 5,000 troops right now in Iraq. And we’re fighting in essence, side-by-side with the Iraqi military.
Corker: We have 5,000 troops right now in Iraq. And we’re fighting in essence, side-by-side with the Iraqi military. That was one area. I said so yesterday in a hearing. That one was difficult to understand.
I mean, here we are in a very crucial moment in Mosul. And you know that Iran is—when the Mosul conflict is over, I mean, all of these things are, let’s face it—much of what we’re doing in Iraq—I support what we’re doing in Iraq, but it’s causing Iraq to be a better country for Iran. Okay?
Again, I support what we’re doing, but let’s face it, Iran is going to take full advantage of all of these kinds of things inside the country. They already have such huge sway over the Parliament. I understand how these things end up having an effect on public opinion and how we’re viewed and how things end up being dealt with. And so yeah, it creates issues.
Now, I will say it’s a temporary situation. So the real—isn’t the real prognosis felt after we see what happens? I mean, they’re looking at the vetting. They’re looking at some of these travel issues. And it could well be that when this 120-day period is over, if it ever begins again, meaning that the court, I know, has held it up as we’re speaking.
It could end up being very different in 120 days when this ban is over.
Glasser: You raise the issue of the courts. One thing that’s so amazing to all of us in Washington, who have been here for a long time, is that within literally a matter of weeks, we are already having these conversations about sort of core constitutional questions—and issues of separation of powers. What is the role of Congress in foreign policy and in decision making around issues like immigration? What is the role of the judiciary—the independent judiciary people are very exercised about President Trump’s seeming to undermine the principle of the independence of the judiciary and attacking judges in personal terms, as “the so-called judge” in the case.
You probably don’t have a lot of time to sit back and reflect on this, but you know, as a member of what’s supposed to be a coequal branch of government, and yet dealing with foreign policy, which really over the last number of decades has moved farther and farther away from Congress’ portfolio—
Glasser: Are we moving into some moment like the 60s and the 70s where we’re examining our basic views about government?
Corker: We have been on the committee for several years. And I feel like that we have been ascending, if you will, in effect. And it needs to be coequal. But you’re exactly right. I mean, so much of what happens foreign-policy wise is with the flick of a pen over at the White House, or a phone call at the White House.
And the Congress has been diminished, no question. So much of what we’re trying to do is just steadily regain that. Pushing back on the Iran deal was, to me, a big step. I know it’s been misunderstood by folks, and I don’t think—there’s still a few Americans that don’t realize that the president went straight to the U.N. Security Council and did a nonbinding political agreement that Congress was able to take back some power. It wasn’t as much as people wanted in some cases, but we did. I mean, we put a stay on that. He couldn’t implement for 90 days. They were infuriated over that.
Whether you agree or disagree with the stay, things are functioning as they should in a democracy like we have.
And we examined the deal, and by the way, I think as a result of that, there’s going to be further changes that will be taking place in that Iran agreement that we will take unilaterally as a country that I think will be very positive and hopefully over time, can engage the European community, Russia and China and others.
But no, this is a time where the American people should want the United States Senate and Congress to continue to ascend. And I hope that’s what we’re doing. That is certainly our goal on a daily basis.
And the same thing with the courts. I mean, the courts obviously, are that third branch. And they’re taking a look at this. And based on what I see right now, whether you agree or disagree with the stay, things are functioning as they should in a democracy like we have.
Glasser: And you have hundreds of thousands of people actually listening to oral arguments [in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on Trump’s temporary refugee ban]
Corker: I was telling my staff, you know, it just highlights my boring social life, but I was listening to it last night.
Glasser: I was too. It was fascinating. I saw somebody tweeted from the Number 1 subway train in New York City that people were listening to it on their telephone. And I thought, well, if you’re looking for a silver lining amidst the anxiety of all this disruption, I suppose people’s re-engagement with core functions of democracy is one of them. So, I know you have to go.
Corker: Well, you saw the publication this morning. I’m sorry to interrupt—that said that now there’s two hours a day of people at work tuning in to political issues. So it’s actually hurting U.S. productivity right now, but people are more engaged than ever, which, it’s pretty good.
Glasser: Well, hey, you know, journalists—it’s a full employment act for journalists, absolutely.
Okay. We’re going to finish on one final issue because I know you have to go. You have a busy day of work here on Capitol Hill.
The Iran deal—you mentioned it. Two quick things—number one, you were very diplomatic in how you characterized this. But clearly you’re very frustrated. You feel that some conservatives raise this as an issue when it came up, as a possibility of U.S. secretary of state—there was really an issue of somehow you had accommodated or facilitated the passage of the deal here on Capitol Hill. And I know that’s a source of frustration to you.
Do you see the deal as actively being attempted at least to be rolled back by the Trump administration? You hear some talk now that even Israel doesn’t actually want us to go for full repeal of the deal because that could be too destabilizing.
Corker: So I met, last week with the national security advisor on Wednesday. We talked about Iran. We’ve got a couple of—we have two pieces of legislation that we think can be very helpful in continuing to push back and push Iran down. They have lots of nefarious activities taking place in the region. But the deal itself was flawed because after about year seven, they begin the process of building towards a zero breakout time, which President Obama, even on NPR one day, agreed that after year 13, they’re scot-free from the standpoint of having zero breakout time.
So that’s a flawed arrangement for us. And so we have an idea as to how to counter that. And obviously, we will want to work with the administration towards that end.
I think what they’re going to do right now is strongly, radically, if you will, whatever word you want to use, enforce the deal. There are three violations right now. One on ballistic missile testing, which everyone is familiar with. The conventional weapons purchases—they’re in violation there. And their heavy water from time to time, goes above the limits that are acceptable. So, radically enforcing, making sure that our representative at the IAEA is vigilant, you know, that person will be replaced soon. Making sure the person that’s overseeing the implementation of this deal is just absolutely energetically pushing back against any of the smaller violations that don’t rise to the level I just mentioned. But for a period of time, for a couple of years, probably nothing really bad is going to happen relative to nuclear development in Iran. And I think that’s why you’re seeing Israel take the position that they’re taking.
But what we need to do in that period of time, in my opinion, is to develop ways of greatly changing the deal that we have with Iran. But not create a crisis. Not make it about us. I mean, the president likely is going to face a crisis. He has no idea what its origin is going to be at present. And so for a period of time, instead of self-creating a crisis, by just abrogating the deal, literally, figuratively, however you want to call it, I think that’s the position they’re going to take in the beginning. And they’re going to move along.
And look, back to the criticism, I mean, it’s almost as if people just want to make something up. I mean, there were 99 senators who voted for us to be able to put a stay on the deal and stop it. And any person with just average intelligence understands that if the president wants to go directly to the U.N. Security Council and create a nonbinding political agreement, there’s nothing Congress can do, short of what we attempted to do in this case.
I’m very proud of that moment, but yes, there are people who somehow think I have the power to by myself, unilaterally, change the way the world works here. But that’s not the case. Ninety-nine senators here supported that effort, and I think it’s caused the American people to understand the arrangement we have with Iran more so than they ever would have. And I think it’s paved the way for us now to go about doing the things—by the way, with bipartisan support to make sure that we change what’s happening, relative to the Iran agreement right now. That’s a very positive outcome from what we did.
Glasser: Senator Corker, it’s so wonderful to be able to share this time with you. I have to say, I think you have one of the more interesting vantage points on the Trump administration, and how it’s going to be revising or disrupting and blowing up, as the case may be, our relationship with people around the world.
And the politics of this are going to be fascinating to watch. So we’re very grateful for your time on The Global POLITICO. We thank all of you listeners, as well. And we hope that you’ll subscribe to us on iTunes, rate us, give us feedback, even email me any time at email@example.com. And thank you again, Senator Corker, for being with us today.
Corker: Well, thank you for allowing me. I’m very much appreciative that you are undertaking this project. And I look forward to the other people that you interview and what they have to say. But thank you very much.
Glasser: Thank you.