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Rep. Ted Yoho On Change At The State Department


For days now, Washington has been awash with rumors that President Trump is about to fire more senior members of his administration. Trump himself has teased the changes to come more than once, including this comment yesterday.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There'll always be change, and I think you want to see change, and I want to also see different ideas.

GREENE: Trump, of course, has already gotten started. Earlier this week, he abruptly announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was done. The president wants to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. I want to bring in someone who has to work with the president a lot on foreign policy. It's Congressman Ted Yoho. He's a Republican from Florida and the vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, welcome to the program.

TED YOHO: Hey, thanks for having me on, David.

GREENE: So the president said he is close to having the Cabinet and other things I want. He said that this week. What does the president want here with these changes?

YOHO: Well, I think, you know, in any administration, you're going to go through some changes to find personalities and people that align more with your policies. And I thought Rex Tillerson did an outstanding job, but yet, he and the president differed on some things. And so I think he's sorting through to find that person that is more in alignment with what he wants to do with North Korea and, you know, around the world.

GREENE: Well, say more about that. I mean, what do you think was missing in terms of Tillerson's policy when it comes to things like North Korea and Iran, and what are you hoping to see differently?

YOHO: Well, I think if you look at the way Rex Tillerson came out and was talking about negotiations with Iran is the best way to go and not bloody noses, the president came out and said you're wasting your time talking about negotiations because it'll never happen, I think that shows a very distinct divide in their perspective or the direction that they wanted to go. And I think you'll see Mike Pompeo more in alignment in that negotiations were at a point where they could start. There's a possibility for them starting. And one of the things that we all want to see is no capitulation on the United States like the last three administrations did.

GREENE: You want a tougher policy on Iran you're saying.

YOHO: On North Korea - I'm sorry. I misspoke if I said Iran - on North Korea. We need - if the negotiations are moving forward, we need to make sure that we don't make the mistakes of the last three administrations that led us to this point where North Korea has, you know, the ICBMs near perfection and then they detonated the four nuclear bombs under Kim Jong Un. The last three administrations, by not standing tough on the sanctions, have led us to this point. So we want to make sure we don't do that.

And as far as Iran, I think the president has been very clear where they stood on that. And I think it's something that Iran needs to know that we are going to stay on top of the JCPOA commitments. And if they break that, then we need to put the sanctions back on.

GREENE: You're talking about the Iran nuclear deal. Let me just ask you about North Korea. I mean, how do we make sense of this being tougher and not making the same mistakes as previous administrations in your words but now talk of the president actually sitting down with the leader of North Korea, which seems like it could be seen as capitulating and doing more negotiating than being tough? I mean, what should we be taking from this?

YOHO: Well, some people think that if he sits down that he's capitulated and already recognize them as a nuclear state, but, you know, go back to the last three administrations, you know, Bill Clinton walked away from the deal because they were cheating on what they already promised not to do. You know, and under Bush, they gave away some sanctions. And President Obama had the strategy of strategic patience. And in this one, I'm OK with President Trump sitting down because I don't think it legitimizes Kim Jong Un, but I also think it says that we're serious. We're at the top of the negotiator - negotiations with our person that's sitting down with him versus having an emissary. And let's see where it goes from here.

And I think what we all could hope and pray for is that this is the beginning of bringing the escalation that's been happening on the North Korea - or on the Korean Peninsula over the last 30 years to a reasonable end to where that part of the region or the world in fact is safer from now on. We've seen too many wars in our lifetime, and we're still paying the legacy for the Vietnam War and World War II.

GREENE: Well, on that topic, I mean, Rand Paul, the Republican senator on the committee in the Senate that will be confirming Mike Pompeo, suggested that he doesn't want to see more wars either and that someone like Mike Pompeo might be more likely to go to war as secretary of state. Are you at all worried that he's too hawkish?

YOHO: You know what? History will tell who's right on this. We could also say that the negotiators over the last 25 years have led us to a point where, you know, the escalation on the North Korean side had gotten to a point where war was pretty eminent. And so maybe it's time for a different stance on that and let them know we're not going to capitulate and buy Kim Jong Un more time while we pretend there is going to be negotiations to where he perfects his ICBM.

GREENE: All right, much more to talk about obviously. Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida, thanks so much for joining us.

YOHO: Hey, thanks a lot. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.