UPDATE: In an NPR interview today, Gardner said he talked to Trump, and Trump agrees that he will not meet with Kim Jong-un without preconditions on denuclearization. For Gardner, this represents a flip back to his old position of insisting on preconditions. Gardner had abandoned this stance (See below.). For the president, it appears Trump hasn’t advocated this stance publicly, only in private to Gardner.
HOST (at 1 min 45 sec):You told The Daily Beast that there shouldn’t even be a summit if there’s no– as you just said — verifiable, irreversible path to denuclearization. So you clearly think that would be a precondition for these talks. You’ve been talking with President Trump about this. Does he agree with you?
GARDNER: Absolutely, he agrees.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said on CBS last week that it was “certainly a positive move” for Trump to enter into talks with North Korea, even though he said the likely meeting should be taken “not only with a grain of salt but with perhaps an entire salt block.”
Gardner reiterated to CBS that the possible talks are a “positive development.”
But back in 2016, when the Obama Administration reportedly engaged briefly in talks with North Korea without preconditions, just like Trump is doing but obviously at a lower level, Gardner was “extremely” disappointed, issuing this statement:
Gardner: It is extremely disappointing, yet unsurprising, that the Obama Administration would talk with North Korea without tough preconditions, including ending its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, human rights abuses, or cyber attacks. It was dangerously naive for the Obama Administration to offer concessions to Pyongyang’s Forgotten Maniac, Kim Jong-un, especially when we’ve seen the Iranian nuclear deal fail to change the behavior of that regime. Like Iran, North Korea doesn’t play by the rules, and it’s far past time that the United States meets its aggression with strength. My North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act changes U.S. policy to offer real solutions to counter North Korea’s belligerence. I’m proud it has been signed into law and it represents a significant shift away from the Obama Administration’s failed policy that has led to three nuclear tests since President Obama assumed office.” [Emphasis added]
Does that sound like the same senator who praised Trump’s outreach to Kim Jong-un as positive?
As recently as November, Gardner was warning against any talks without preconditions.
Gardner: Moreover, before any talks in any format with North Korea, the United States and our partners must demand that Pyongyang first adhere to the denuclearization commitments it had already agreed to in the past – and subsequently chose to brazenly violate.
What changed? Gardner didn’t return a call seeking comment, but judging from his media statements, it looks like his official explanation might be that North Korea has changed due to economic sanctions by the U.S. and others. But everything changed in just six months?
More likely: Gardner didn’t want to stand up to, or even criticize, Trump on the issue, especially because Gardner once claimed that he had Trump’s ear on North Korea policy.
That’s in keeping with Gardner’s stance toward Trump on many issues, as seen in Gardner’s 91 percent score of voting in line with the President and Gardner’s depressing silence on one pathetic and bizarre Trump antic after another.