U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., sees precedent in the past as hope for progress in the future when it comes to President Trump and foreign relations with Russia and North Korea.
Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Cotton cited examples of former President Ronald Reagan’s tenure with adversarial world leaders as a blueprint for Trump to follow.
“It’s fair to say that the U.S.-Russia relationship is as tense as it’s been since 1983, 1984 in part because Russia continues to engage in the kind of actions you’ve just described: hacking into those emails and releasing them during our election, intervening in the Syrian civil war contrary to our interests, continuing to probe on our European allies’ borders, doing things like using a highly toxic chemical to try to assassinate a former Russian spy on British soil,” he said. “We’ve taken much stronger steps in the last 15 months against Russia to try to impose new boundaries on Vladimir Putin’s behavior than we had in the previous eight years, and we should continue to do those things like expelling spies that we know to be here on our soil.”
Cotton referenced that even at the height of the Cold War during the Reagan administration that his foreign advisors continued dialogue with Soviet leaders.
“Even when relations are low, maybe especially when relations are at a low point with other great powers, it’s important that our leaders have an open line of communication,” Cotton said.
He expressed confidence in Trump’s new national security team, which includes Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and controversial John Bolton as National Security Advisor. Cotton said Pompeo was a trusted friend and is “on the same wavelength” with Trump in his worldview. Cotton sees Bolton as expert in making “the levers of power in Washington move.”
When asked if the newly constructed national security team would be better or worse than former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Cotton said it would be “different.” He also said he was not worried about appeasement by Trump towards North Korea as he heads towards a meeting with that country’s dictator.
“So far, the president has said exactly what you would want him to say from my standpoint which is it’s fine to sit down and talk. North Korea is no longer an aspiring nuclear power. It’s a nuclear power. That’s obvious for the whole world to see,” Cotton said. “The patterns of crises between the United States and North Korea also have been very common over the last 30 years. This may be a chance to get out of that pattern. That pattern being North Korea pushes us to the point of crisis, we offer them concessions in terms of food aid or relaxed sanctions just to sit down and talk, and then they walk away from the negotiating table.”
“This president has said he’s willing to talk, but he’s not willing to grant concessions just for the sake of talking. I don’t believe that he will nor should we offer concessions that are one-sided or disproportionate to what North Korea would offer which ultimately is the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Cotton added.
OPIOIDS, MEDICAL MARIJUANA
This past week, Cotton touted his efforts to strengthen penalties regarding fentanyl in a press conference with Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge discussing the U.S. opioid crisis.
Cotton noted that 60,000 people a year die from opioid abuse. This past week, two medical studies were released that suggested medical marijuana could aid in reducing opioid prescriptions and abuse. Arkansas voters passed a medical marijuana amendment to allow for its use, but it has been delayed due to administrative slowness and legal wrangling since its passage in November 2016.
Cotton said he was hesitant for the federal government to do more on the medical marijuana front, even though federal restrictions have curtailed more study and complicated local adoption of marijuana as a drug.
“I think right now what we’re seeing across the states is exactly what our federal system is designed to do: to allow the states to experiment and see what may work and what doesn’t work,” he said. “I don’t think we should, in Congress, change the laws that would essentially not just decriminalize or even legalize marijuana but allow it to be commercialized because of all of the negative side effects that would have.”
He said he doubted the U.S. Department of Justice or U.S. Attorneys would interfere in medical marijuana usage, but he is worried about its impact at the state level.
“It’s a state decision, which is the decision that the people of Arkansas made in a referendum a couple years ago, but also there’s a real difference between saying an adult who is addicted to opioids or maybe has advanced cancer and wants to use marijuana for pain management. That’s a very different decision from saying we’re going to commercialize marijuana and make it easily available to teenagers where the science shows it can have very detrimental effects on that. I do worry about that impact on our communities,” Cotton said. “I respect that decision that the voters of Arkansas have made. It’s not my responsibility to implement that at the state level.”
Sen. Cotton said he expects the rest of the year’s Congressional calendar to include confirmations of administration positions and judicial nominees. He doesn’t expect much legislative action on immigration, healthcare or taxes, but banking reform could see a vote.
Watch more of his conversation in the video below.