Nancy Pelosi suggests subpoena power could be useful tool in negotiating with Trump
"Subpoena power is interesting, to use it or not to use it," Pelosi told Dana Bash at the day-long CITIZEN Conference put on by CNN. "It's a great arrow to have in your quiver in terms of negotiating on other subjects."
Subpoena power, something that would allow House Democrats to call Trump administration officials to testify before Congress as long as they are in power, could be considered one of the most powerful tools Democrats would gain if they win in November.
Democrats, while eager to provide a check on the Trump administration, have tried to be careful when talking about how they will provide oversight on the President. Pelosi's comments are slightly more direct than Democrats have been in the past and suggest that the party will use the power in more ways than just holding the Trump administration's feet to the fire.
"Strategically," Pelosi said when asked how she will use the power. "As I said, it is about bringing people together."
She later ensured, though, that a Democratic House "will exercise our oversight."
Pelosi's comments came in the opening session of a daylong conference organized by CNN that will explore a range of topics with newsmakers like former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and White House adviser Jared Kushner just two weeks before the 2018 midterm elections.
Jared Kushner says administration still 'fact-finding' in Jamal Khashoggi death investigation
Kushner, the presidential adviser and son-in-law who has come under harsh scrutiny for cultivating close ties to the powerful and domineering Saudi crown prince, indicated it was too early to tell whether his advice was being followed and noted the Trump administration was still in the "fact-finding phase" regarding the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
Still, he defended the longstanding Washington-Riyadh alliance. And he suggested the White House would need to balance any punishment for the death with its interests in the region.
"The Middle East is a rough place. It's been a rough place for a very long time," Kushner, a White House senior adviser, told Van Jones at the CITIZEN by CNN conference. "We have to be able to pursue our strategic objectives. But we also have to deal with what is obviously a terrible situation."
"We're getting as many facts as we can," Kushner said, "then we'll determine which facts are credible."
Kushner's comments came in the opening session of a daylong conference organized by CNN that is exploring a range of topics with newsmakers like former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi two weeks before the 2018 midterm elections.
Kushner has fostered a close relationship with Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto leader who has enacted new reforms over the past year even as he's consolidated power and worked to stamp out rivals. The two men, close in age, have visited each others' capitals and discussed various strategies for the Middle East.
In its early stages, the relationship caused some anxiety among career national security staffers, who worried off-the-book conversations with untested leaders could create problems.
As the Khashoggi crisis descended on the White House over the past two weeks, Kushner's relationship with Prince Mohammed gained new scrutiny. He has remained intentionally in the background as West Wing officials feared a more public role would prompt backlash, multiple people familiar with the matter said.
Trump has privately aired frustrations that he and his son-in-law appeared overly cozy with the Saudi royal court, and has told confidantes he did not believe the Kushner-Mohammed bin Salman relationship was as close as it is perceived to be.
Yet Kushner has been quietly shaping the administration's response, including during phone calls with Prince Mohammed.
"The world is watching," Kushner said was his advice to the young leader. "This is a very, very serious accusation. A very serious situation. To be sure you're transparent and to take this very seriously."
"We'll see" if he takes that advice, Kushner said.
Saudi Arabia has presented a shifting narrative of what happened to Khashoggi. After weeks of denying involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, on Friday Saudi Arabia said that he was killed in the Istanbul consulate, saying his death was the result of a "fistfight." A Saudi source close to the royal palace later told CNN that the Washington Post journalist died in a chokehold. On Sunday, its foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, went further, describing Khashoggi's death on Fox News as a "murder" and a "tremendous mistake." He also said they "don't know where the body is."
"We are determined to uncover every stone. We are determined to find out all the facts. And we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder," the foreign minister said in the interview.
The administration is approaching Saudi Arabia's explanation for Khashoggi's death with "our eyes wide open," Kushner said on Monday.
"I think the President is focused on what's good for America," Kushner said. "What are our strategic interests. Where do we share interests with other countries, let's work toward those."
Kushner said it was important to maintain the US-Saudi alliance, which has persisted across Democratic and Republican administrations, despite a woeful human rights record in Saudi Arabia and questions about the country's ties to extremism.
"We have to be able to work with our allies, and Saudi Arabia has, I think, been a very strong ally in terms of pushing back on Iran's aggression," Kushner said.
Kushner was instrumental in arranging Trump's first stop abroad as president to occur in Riyadh, where the President was welcomed with extravagant displays of royal pageantry, including a traditional sword dance.
Since then he's visited the Kingdom on his own, including during a tour of the Gulf in June. Prince Mohammed has also been welcomed to the White House for talks, including during an American tour that included stops in New York, Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
Prince Mohammed has promoted reforms within his kingdom, but some in Washington have cast skepticism on his intentions. Those came into sharp relief after the detention and reported torture of dozens of Saudis in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh -- an episode that came just weeks after Trump stayed at the hotel on his visit.
Kushner on Monday offered praise for reforms enacted in the kingdom since Prince Mohammed assumed power, saying they helped advance American interests.
"A lot of the reforms they've been making there to help us track down the terror financing and also to push back against the people who are perverting the religion, have been very historic over the last year," he said. "So we're hopeful we can keep pushing forward with a lot of the initiatives that further American interests and that push back Iran's aggression, so we're going to stay focused on that."
Russia fires back after Trump threatens to ditch nuclear arms treaty
Trump told reporters on Saturday that he intended to withdraw the country from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by the Soviet Union and United States in 1987 during the final years of the Cold War.
The agreement has helped eliminate thousands of land-based missiles from the US and Russia, and Trump's plans have raised concerns of a renewed arms race between the two nations.
Trump said he was pulling out of the treaty because Russia has "been violating it for many years." US and NATO officials have long criticized Russia for testing a cruise missile that they say is banned under the accord.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday strongly denied Russia was in violation of the treaty.
He relayed Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement that it was the United States that "dilutes" the agreement by deploying anti-missile systems that can also be used to launch short- or medium-range missiles.
"If you read President's statements [Putin], he was saying that the breach in the INF treaty forces Russia to take measures in order to ensure its security. What does the INF breach mean?
"It means that the US not only covertly but also directly begins to develop these systems. If these systems are in development, action from other countries is required. In this case it's Russia, in order to restore the balance in this area," Peskov told reporters.
"Russia is and has been devoted to the clauses of the agreement, and we think the intention of the US to withdraw is, of course, concerning because such steps, if taken, can make the world a more dangerous place."
The Cold War agreement saw thousands of missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles destroyed, and banned the development and testing of such weapons.
Russia agrees treaty has problems
Suggestions of a new arms race between the US and Russia have been brewing over the past two years, since Russia deployed a cruise missile in what US officials said was an INF treaty violation.
Putin in March used a concept video of unlimited range nuclear warheads apparently raining down on Florida to tout his country's new firepower. Moscow also threatened to shoot down US missiles in Syria, and Trump responded on Twitter with threats of "nice and new and 'smart!'" US missiles.
But both countries may have something to gain by ditching the agreement. Withdrawing from the treaty would allow the US to develop a missile similar to the one that Russia has tested.
Conversely, the announcement could also allow Russia to blame the United States for the treaty's demise, while pursuing an arsenal of nuclear missiles more freely.
The two countries also share some grievances over the treaty. Trump on Saturday cited China's missile arsenal as another reason for scrapping the accord, a concern that Peskov echoed in his remarks Monday.
"There are still problems around this treaty and the President has said that in the past," Peskov said, referring to Putin.
"Many countries in Asia and other countries are developing these systems, which can be qualified as short- and medium-range missiles. But nevertheless, Russia and USA are still two key countries responsible for the world's stability and security."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had not seen Trump's decision come through official channels.
"Right now, it's not very productive to read the tea leaves. We will wait for official explanations from our American colleagues," he told Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti.
Gorbachev urges treaty's preservation
Former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with then-US President Ronald Reagan, criticized Trump's plan as "unacceptable" and "very irresponsible," RIA Novosti reported.
"It was a great victory that we managed to get as far as making decisions enshrined in these...treaties that got rid of nuclear weapons and warheads," Gorbachev said.
Trump, who has withdrawn the US from several international accords, made the announcement ahead of US national security adviser John Bolton's visit to Moscow. Bolton met with his counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, on Monday.
Gorbachev expressed hope that Moscow and Washington could still reach an agreement to preserve the INF treaty.
"I don't know whether they will succeed or not, but I think it's not too late yet," he said.
GOP Sen. Sasse: Ending arms sales to Saudis 'should be on the table'
"We don't do arms sales for the purposes of the profits from arms sales. We do arms sales because we want to be allied with different countries around the globe that believe in our values and have a long-term sense of what we're up to together and why we have that alliance," Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."
"(The) Saudis got a lot of explaining to do," he said.
US arms sales to the Saudis have become a topic of debate in recent days as the investigation into Khashoggi's death has called into question the US' relationship with the country.
On Friday, the Saudis admitted the death of Khashoggi, saying it happened after a fistfight involving more than a dozen Saudi officials at the country's consulate in Istanbul. President Donald Trump, responding to the news, said he would work with Congress to develop a response to Khashoggi's death, but said that he didn't want sanctions to affect US arms sales to the kingdom.
"I would prefer if there is going to be some form of sanctions -- this was a lot of people they're talking about ... I would prefer we don't use as retribution (canceling) $110 billion worth of work," the President told reporters in Arizona.
On Sunday, Sasse told Tapper that arms sales "are always means to an end. They're not the end."
"The end is the American idea. And the end is stability in the world so that problems abroad don't come home to roost for us," he said.
Sasse also said that he doesn't believe Saudi Arabia's explanation of Khashoggi's death.
"I think the cover stories from the Saudis are a mess" he said. "You don't bring a bone saw to an accidental fist fight."
Sasse previously told CNN that the disappearance of Khashoggi will not be "swept under the rug," and that he believes there should be an "international investigation" into what happened.