The Washington Post
President Donald Trump has been played for a sucker by many of the worldâ€™s most vile autocrats. Give him a glowing orb and heâ€™ll look the other way if you murder and dismember an U.S.-based journalist. Roll out the red carpet and Trump will be silent on Chinaâ€™s human rights abuses. Help Trump get elected and, soon, heâ€™ll be spouting Cold War talking points to justify the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (Instead of lecturing Trump about trade and German cars manufactured in the United States, maybe German Chancellor Angela Merkel should have given him a light-up toy and invited him to a sword dance.)
No episode however is as cringeworthy as Trumpâ€™s decision to give not one but two (!) glitzy summit platforms to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, pretend (with the help of his secretary of state) that progress was being made on denuclearization (when in reality North Korea has been moving ahead while Trump swore off security exercises with South Korea), and then tell the world he believes Kim when he says he didnâ€™t know - in arguably the most closely controlled dictatorship on the planet - about Otto Warmbierâ€™s torture, which resulted in the Americanâ€™s death.
Michael Abramowitz of Freedom House told me, â€śItâ€™s strange and disappointing that President Trump consistently believes the words of repressive dictators.
An American student was brutally murdered at the hands of a foreign power. But rather than hold that power accountable, the President seems to blindly accept a farcical denial by one of the worldâ€™s worst tyrants, Kim Jong Un.â€ť
Given the weak and dim president, itâ€™s up to Congress to provide adult supervision. Fortunately, that is happening with regard to North Korea. Reuters reports:
â€śRepublican Senator Pat Toomey and Democrat Chris Van Hollen offered the â€śOtto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Actâ€ť days after a summit between Republican President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was abruptly cut off after they failed to reach a deal for the reclusive communist nation to give up its nuclear weapons.
â€śAfter the summit, Trump said he believed Kimâ€™s claim not to have known how Otto Warmbier was treated, prompting his parents to issue a sharp statement strongly condemning Kimâ€™s â€śevil regimeâ€ť and blaming it for their sonâ€™s death.
â€śIn a statement, Fred and Cindy Warmbier thanked van Hollen and Toomey, and said they believed the legislation would provide useful tools to help change North Korea.
Iâ€™m curious to see whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., allows a vote on that measure, or whether he would rather concede Kim a propaganda victory than cross Trump.
And with talks between the Trump Administration and the DPRK breaking down last week, the need for Congress to draw a clear line in the sand is more important than ever,â€ť he said. â€śThis legislation sends a straightforward message to the regime and its partners that itâ€™s not business as usual. We must expand and enforce sanctions against Kim Jong-unâ€™s regime - the BRINK Act would do just that.â€ť
The legislation, the statement continued, â€śis modeled on the Iran secondary sanctions laws passed by Congress in 2010 and 2012 that helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. The key feature of the bill is that it imposes secondary sanctions on financial entities that do business with the North Korean regime.
Whether it is North Korea, China, Russia or other bad actors, it is incumbent on Congress to remind the world that U.S. interests in supporting democracy, countering the proliferation of nuclear weapons, checking international aggressors and addressing problems of mutual interest will outlive the Trump presidency.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.