January 25, 2018

Cardin Reflects on U.S. Foreign Policy One Year into the Trump Administration

“President Trump has been unwilling to engage in the delicate diplomacy and tough national security decisions that are required to keep this country safe and maintain our global leadership. The Congress’ role in shaping and advancing U.S. foreign policy has never been more important, and I will continue to advance legislation, conduct oversight, and speak out about these important issues in the name of the American people and the values and norms that define us and our place in this complicated

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday, reflecting on U.S. foreign policy one year into the Trump Administration:

“I come to the floor today to reflect on the troubling foreign policy of President Donald Trump one year into his Administration.

“A recent poll out from Gallup showed a dramatic reduction in global public opinion toward the United States. Confidence in the U.S. by the global community has plummeted to 30 percent under President Trump. 

“Low public opinion of our great country among other nations is not a good thing…it is not something to celebrate. In fact, it makes the world less safe for America and Americans.  It limits our economic opportunities. And it undermines our ability to promote our values, betraying President Reagan’s vision of a city on a hill.

“In just one year, the Trump Administration has betrayed America’s values, abandoned our allies, and appeased our enemies.

“American alliances, for example, with the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization keep our country safe and prosperous while also building a more secure world, but President Trump has repeatedly questioned the worthiness of both organizations and attacked leading members of each body – almost always key American allies.

“The concerns were made much more when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson early on in the Administration said that America’s interests would no longer be dictated by our values. It was almost unfathomable to hear the nation’s top diplomat speak in such a narrow, myopic way.

“And the games the Administration has played with the mission statements of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development have been clear attempts to depart from the values that define who we are – support for democracy, human rights, transparency, and good governance.

“President Trump has praised strongmen leaders in Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt and in the Philippines even as they imprison, torture or kill their own citizens.

“If support for world leaders who lack almost all our values isn’t bad enough, President Trump’s attacks on some of America’s closest friends have undermined the credibility of America’s word and America’s commitment to its values.

“Launching verbal broadsides against the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Korea – the latter during the ongoing nuclear standoff with North Korea – are deeply regrettable and completely counterproductive.

“And speaking of verbal mistakes, you cannot conduct high-stakes diplomacy through Twitter.

“We should never normalize such conduct by a President of the United States.

“That Secretary Tillerson conceded last week that he essentially learns about the President’s foreign policy statements or even positions -- because his staff at Foggy Bottom prints off the President’s tweets for him -- should give everyone pause.

“Besides the nuclear crisis with North Korea, nowhere have the President’s statements been more damaging than in the tenuous relationship between Washington and Moscow. Frankly, the President’s words and actions send a clear signal to Vladimir Putin that he can continue to attack democratic institutions and values with impunity.

“Each time Mr. Putin has denied to Mr. Trump that the Kremlin was involved in attempting to influence the 2016 election – a bald faced lie – the American president races to say that he believes him.

“Never before in American history has so clear a threat to our national security been so clearly ignored by the President of the United States.

“Last week I released a report through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee documenting Mr. Putin’s pattern of 20 years of attacks against democratic institutions in Europe. In order to best understand what he did here in the United States in 2016 – a matter still under investigation – as well as to protect ourselves in 2018, 2020, and beyond, we need to understand the big picture and respond accordingly. But we’ll never be fully protected or have a robust-enough response with the President’s repeated, public appeasement of Mr. Putin.

“Mr. President, let me just insert that we’ve seen this week, how that is playing out again in a manner that is being debated in Congress. I would like to make note that the Russian government today continues to interfere in our political debate here in the United States. There are reports that Russia’s internet bots and trolls are working to support Congressman Nunes’ to produce and release a Republican staff report on the investigation of Russian interference in our 2016 elections. We know that Russian bots and trolls are vigorously promoting these attacks, corroding our political institutions and norms of behavior, seeking to paralyze our government and undermine our democracy.

“This sort of behavior carries the gravest possible risk to our democratic system and our very way of life. I’m not surprised to find that Russian services are attacking us. The report we recently released made that clear that it was part of their strategy. But I do hope that all of us – Democrats and Republicans – will stand up for our democratic institutions and speak out against Russia’s interference in our political system.

“The President refers to his foreign policy strategy as ‘America First.’

“‘America First’ is a risky and chaotic proposition, and will assuredly lead to ‘America Alone.’

“The Muslim ban, hastily handed down not one week into this Administration, was the early, defining moment of President Trump’s tenure – the clearest sign yet he would actively work to denigrate our values and isolate us from the rest of the world.

“President Trump’s rhetoric has made multifaceted conflict with China more likely, at a time when we need to work with the Chinese on stronger diplomatic ties between our nations and to improve regional stability in East Asia.

“And the President’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement – an accord that every nation on earth is a member of and which the majority of the President’s senior advisors recommended against – is a gross abdication of American leadership and a narrow-minded rejection of basic science and fact.

“I and other members of this body are engaged in an attempt to prevent the President from withdrawing from another major international agreement without reason – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. The President has jeopardized the agreement by not certifying Iran’s compliance, without producing evidence. He has now made a number of aggressive demands of Congress and of our European allies, once again demonstrating he is no negotiator.

“‘America First,’ supposedly, but as communities in Maryland and across the country struggle with a nationwide epidemic from opioid, heroin and fentanyl overdoses, President Trump’s budget proposed a 27 percent reduction in America’s global counter-narcotics efforts – directly weakening our ability to work with international partners to stem the illegal flow of drugs entering our country.

“The President sought to slash $1 billion from America’s global effort to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Thanks to bipartisan American leadership, we have made enormous strides against this disease. We should not turn back from that progress.

“This kind of fear, insecurity and even xenophobia are damaging our reputation abroad and corroding our core identity as Americans here at home.

“The President has doubled-down on his disastrous ‘Wall’ rhetoric and continues to belittle Mexico, one of our closest friends and partners in the world. Even the White House chief of staff’s attempts to clean up the President’s wall position ended embarrassingly for him.

“President Trump’s campaign to undermine American values resulted in slashing refugee resettlement into the United States, while asking other countries to do more. His policies damage our moral leadership, condone other countries’ rejection of refugees on their borders and strengthen the hand of those who wish to do us harm through recruitment or radicalization. 

“U.S. leadership on this issue is key to our counterterrorism strategy.

“President Ronald Reagan admitted 140,000 refugees in just one year of his Presidency. By contrast at a time of extraordinary international need, President Trump capped refugee resettlement to 45,000 refugees this fiscal year. Since Trump announced his cap, through an array of bureaucratic maneuvers, refugee admissions have fallen to levels unseen in modern history. At current rates, the United States may grant entry to fewer than 20, 000 refugees, the lowest number since the program was established in 1980.  

“The President’s stealth attack on refugee resettlement is a war on a program that has embodied America’s compassion and global leadership.

“Much attention has been drawn to the despicable uncertainty that President Trump has injected into the lives of hundreds of thousands of DREAMers, preparing to deport young people who are essentially American citizens to countries they’ve never known.

“But equally as troubling is the President’s denial of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for hundreds of thousands of more people from Haiti and El Salvador. Many more from Honduras and Syria sit in the President’s cross hairs. These people have lived in our country, sometimes for decades, contribute to our economy, many have American citizen children, and sending them back to their home nations at this time – countries which are already destabilized to various degrees – will exacerbate local and regional problems.

“I am proud of the legislation I have written with Senators Feinstein and Van Hollen and supported by numerous colleagues to create a legal pathway to residency for TPS recipients who only seek a better life for themselves and their families, enriching our country and all that it stands for in the process.

“The U.S. military is the finest in the world, but increasingly President Trump wants our men and women in uniform to do what should be the responsibilities of our diplomatic and development corps – our forces for peace.

“And it’s not just a slow and steady transfer of priorities or responsibilities from Foggy Bottom to the Pentagon. President Trump has failed to fill critical national security jobs and is gutting our development and diplomatic institutions.

“It infuriates me when the President or his team dare to accuse the Senate of failing to do its constitutional responsibilities regarding nominations.

“Of 163 Senate confirmed positions across the State Department and USAID, the Administration does not have a nominee for 72 of those jobs – just under fifty percent.

“The Administration has proposed an illogical and ideological cut of over 30 percent to the State Department and USAID budgets, attempting to disembowel critical national security tools. Secretary Tillerson has maintained an unexplained hiring freeze at the Department and Agency, diplomats are leaving the government in large numbers, and his attempt to reorganize the Department remains in my view a solution in search of a problem.

“The President has little interest in how diplomacy advances our interests, promotes our values, and makes us safer and more prosperous.

“To make matters worse, the President and his family continue to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes their business interests over America’s interests. 

“In his dealings with China alone, the writing is on the wall. Candidate Trump said on day one of his presidency that he would declare China a currency manipulator. American business are still waiting. Did he sacrifice the American worker in order to appease the Chinese bankers who pay him rent at Trump Tower? Or perhaps it was so he could secure those long-sought after business trademarks from China, 38 in all.

“The American people should not lose sight of the fact that the President has refused to divest himself from the Trump Organization, ignoring decades of ethical norms and precedent. The President of the United States is engaged in foreign policy while maintaining unprecedented business interests in about 20 countries.

“Today, the President has a financial stake in real estate projects in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere—developments that require approval and intervention from governments, financing from banks, and cooperation from local partners. And he continues to earn royalties from properties located throughout the world, from Panama to the United Arab Emirates.

“Reaping a financial profit while serving as President begs the question of whether he is working in his own best interest or the nation’s best interest – exactly why the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause exists and of which I believe he is in violation.  President Trump could easily rectify this, by cutting his financial ties and leaving no doubt that he is first and foremost serving the nation’s interests.

In closing, let me say that American foreign policy led by our values, support for our allies, and a desire to make the world a better place keeps us safe at home and advances our country’s prosperity and security.

“President Trump has not put the strategies in place to deal with the complicated national security crises facing our country. Instead, he has made international security challenges much harder to solve, including the crisis with Iran, the nuclear weapons dilemma with North Korea, and a Kremlin actively sowing discord in our country and throughout the Western democratic world.

“President Trump has been unwilling to engage in the delicate diplomacy and tough national security decisions that are required to keep this country safe and maintain our global leadership.

“The Congress’ role in shaping and advancing U.S. foreign policy has never been more important, and I will continue to advance legislation, conduct oversight, and speak out about these important issues in the name of the American people and the values and norms that define us and our place in this complicated world.

“I am proud that there are many Members on both sides of the aisle who share these concerns, and we will work together in America’s national security interests."

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