President Donald Trump has found an unlikely source of support as he meets with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un: Democrats.
Some of the same far-left Democrats who complain that he stole the election and want to impeach him praise him for trying to engage in diplomacy.
"We are encouraged by your efforts to pursue direct diplomacy with North Korea with the dual goals of resolving the nearly seven-decade-long conflict and achieving the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," 15 House members wrote in a letter to Trump on Monday. "Diplomacy is the only path to resolve the tensions between our countries."
Yet the Democrats may just be helping Trump.
The White House has repeatedly boasted that Trump, the businessman-turned-politician, is perhaps the only person who could strike a deal with Kim, the reclusive dictator. Trump has already started campaigning on the issues as he hits the road for the midterm elections and relishes talk of a possible Nobel Peace Prize if the talks yield a significant lasting deal.
"These members are willing to put what's best for the country, and in this case the world, ahead of the day-to-day politics of it," said Eddie Vale, a veteran of Democratic and progressive political and legislative campaigns. "But just because someone is giving Trump a chance on diplomacy doesn't mean they won't criticize him if he fails on one of the myriad other issues like immigration, health care, or taxes that he's hurting their constituents on and that's what the elections will be decided on."
The letter was signed by the two co-chairs of the House's Progressive Caucus — Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., — and include members from California, Washington, Hawaii and Guam.
Polls show that a majority of Americans support Trump's meeting with Kim following news that Pyongyang had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead and was considering a plan to fire missiles at Guam.
But Rob Stutzman, a Republican political strategist based in Sacramento, California, said Democrats had no choice but to back Trump.
"Whether they like it or not Trump has succeeded in getting to the table with Kim, which no other U.S. president has been able to do." he said. "There is jeopardy for them in opposing what could be a diplomatic success that will be very popular at home. If Trump is unable to deliver a denuclearization agreement, they have not lost anything politically. The safe thing for them to do is to support the US president abroad at the summit."
But perhaps not eager to heap too much praise on Trump, the 15 House Democrats are taking credit for the president's dramatic change on North Korea that came after 64 members of Congress urged him in May 2017 to stop reckless threats of war and to talk to North Korea’s leadership.
Last year, Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on the rogue nation if Kim — who he dubbed "Rocket Man" — attacked the United States. Earlier this year, Trump abruptly agreed to a meeting.
"There is no such thing as a non-diplomatic solution to any of these issues," said Thomas Countryman, former acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security who is now chair of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors.
The House letter stands in contrast to one sent to Trump by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and other top Senate Democrats that listed several demands including that any deal with North Korea must completely dismantle the nation's nuclear and ballistic missile programs permanently. "We don't need his advice," Trump tweeted after he received the letter.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who could be the panel’s next chairman if Republicans retain control of the Senate, said he wasn’t surprised by the House Democrats’ letter.
“Who would think it’s a bad idea” to talk with North Korea, Risch said. “If you’re an American, you ought to be praying for the president.”
William Douglas in Washington contributed.
Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01