Steffan Tubbs Show, Cory Gardner, March 9, 2018

Station:   KNUS, 710 am

Guests:   Gardner, Cory


Date:        March 9, 2018

Topics:     Kim Jon Un, North Korea, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, East Asia Subcommittee, Concrete Verifiable Steps Toward Denuclearization, Whack Job, National Cyber Security Center, North Korean Missle Attack

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HOST STEFFAN TUBBS: [00:00:00] A person that, since he was sworn into the United States Senate in 2015, has been all over Kim Jong Un and he joins us, Colorado U.S. Senator Cory Gardner. Great to have you, Cory. Thanks so much for the time this evening.

U.S. SENATOR FROM COLORADO, CORY GARDNER: [00:00:14] Hey, thanks, Steffan, for having me.

TUBBS: [00:00:15] You bet. I think — I don’t even know if I want to even try to — and I’ll start off with just a little bit of humor, and I know this is talking about perhaps the fate of the entire planet with this lunatic — but how have you described him before? And has anything changed in the last 24 to 48 hours of your view on the North Korean leader, since there’s apparently this effort to at least talk with the leader of the free world?

GARDNER: [00:00:44] That’s a great question, because I think there have been a lot of names hurled by both sides on this, this North Korea – U.S. debate. I — in the very beginning of my service in the Foreign Relations Committee where I share that East Asia subcommittee focusing most of my time dealing with North Korea in that committee — I called him The Forgotten Maniac. I call him The Forgotten Maniac because people weren’t watching what he was doing. He was operating under — then — a failed policy that the U.S. had enacted known as Strategic Patience. He was accumulating and stockpiling weapons and testing missile systems and nobody was paying attention. Now, a lot of people are. The world is paying attention, and particularly yesterday, when the sanctions have finally put enough pressure on Kim Jong Un that he is apparently willing to talk now [about] denuclearization.

TUBBS: [00:01:37] Let’s talk about what you’re privy to and — even if you’re not privy to it — what you would want, because the big thing that was in the White House press conference today with reporters — and I know you know this, and you’ve got to have as U.S. Senator and close on this and this has been again this has been something you’ve pounded your fist in Washington about for a long time in multiple committee hearings and so forth and you call him The Forgotten maniac. I think a lot of people Senator would say what about concessions what are we going to give up. How much will we bargain with this guy what have you heard?

GARDNER: [00:02:13] Well it’s U.S. policy that we will only accept the complete, verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization of the Kim regime. That’s our policy. And besides this, the Kim regime — you know, his father, his grandfather — they have at various times committed to doing just this. In 2005 there was a commitment to abandon the nuclear program. In 1994, there was a commitment to stop this production of enrichment and other nuclear-based programs. The promises were broken then. And so, I don’t think the United States is in a position to give up anything other than to say, “Fulfill the promises you’ve made in the past. Let’s see those concrete verifiable steps. And then maybe — maybe! — North Korea will be able to rejoin the global community once again.

TUBBS: [00:03:03] Senator Cory Gardner, joining us here on the Stefan Tobbe Show. [I] appreciate his time, as it’s 5:37 as we continue on 710 KNUS. Has he taken a shot at you? I can’t remember if he had. I think he did, didn’t he.?

GARDNER: [00:03:18] Yeah. You know, I was, Steffan, on an interview, and I shouldn’t have been as flippant as I was. I said that I thought that everybody agreed that Kim Jong Un was a ‘whack job,’ And apparently, that doesn’t translate well.

TUBBS: [00:03:32] [laughs] I don’t know in what language it would!

GARDNER: [00:03:33] You can only imagine! And in response — I was surprised. I thought it was actually something out of The Onion, where Kim Jung Un accused me of losing my body hair, which is a big insult.

TUBBS: [00:03:47] Oh! That’s right? And I don’t mean to get personal, but your wife was like, “Wut?”

GARDNER: [00:03:50] [laughs]

TUBBS: [00:03:50] And maybe you were as well. It’s no laughing matter but, — you know what? — late night TV, The Onion, people, smart asses on Twitter and social media everywhere — they have made fun of this maniac. And I’m going to agree with you on that, just from what he’s done. I mean, my God! — the assassination of his half brother in the airport?

GARDNER: [00:04:15] You’re exactly right, Steffan.

TUBBS: [00:04:15] While that’s funny — not that incident. I’m talking about while it’s funny — I mean, President Trump calls him ‘Rocket Man.’ But at the same time, this guy has instigated the world. If you’re in China, you’re concerned. If you’re in certainly South Korea, — my God! And Japan, as well. This is this is somebody that — even though the late night talk show hosts, as you well know, have had fun with it, this is damn serious.

GARDNER: [00:04:45] Well it is. And if you think about the missile — or the false missile alert — that occurred in Hawaii, you know, the people of Hawaii believed that there was a missile coming their way! And people thought that they — and the did! — say goodbye to their loved ones. You know, if you’re in Japan, you’ve sheltered multiple times because North Korea launched a missile over Japan. If you’re in South Korea, you live within a stone’s throw of thousands of rockets that could rain down on you if this goes in the wrong direction. And so, that’s why this is such a serious issue. Kim Jung Un said he would use his nuclear arsenal against the United States. And that, again, goes back to what I have said. We must continue our maximum pressure. I sent a letter to the President on Friday with a number of other senators about this. I spoke to him last night again about this. And we’ve got to continue our pressure, continue those sanctions, and then continue to engage our partners around the globe who are able to cut off trade and sanction North Korea, and then make sure that we cut off those who try to enable this regime, as well.

TUBBS: [00:05:48] Senator Cory Gardner, joining us on 710 KNUS. I want to ask you about trust. How can we trust this guy? And ahead of — and I don’t know if there is even a possibility, and please tell me live, because I haven’t talked to you until you called in — I don’t know if there’s a possibility that you would be invited to this historic meeting if it happens, if you want to be there. But regardless, I don’t know how many people — if you took a national poll what the what it would be. Do you trust the leader of North Korea? I highly doubt you’d see anything less than 98 percent ‘no.’

GARDNER: [00:06:25] And I’d like to see the other 2 percent to 3 support him. Look, I don’t trust Kim Jong Un regime. And I don’t trust the Kim regime because they’ve proven untrustworthy. That’s why I’ve said there has to be concrete and verifiable steps shown. We must verify before we trust. That’s exactly what I said to the President on Friday.

TUBBS: [00:06:47] And will that happen? Because we’re talking about — and I don’t know where the ‘May’ thing came about. I don’t know if this is Kim’s decision. But let’s face it man., it’s Friday, March 9th. May is not that far away. And if you want to verify, you don’t just do that on a weekend.

GARDNER: [00:07:05] And I think it’s important to note too what what Kim has said, is that he would freeze the nuclear tests and freeze the missile tests. Well, that doesn’t mean you’ve suspended the nuclear program.

TUBBS: [00:07:15] Right.

GARDNER: [00:07:15] That says nothing about enrichment. That says nothing about, “Are you still trying to develop a delivery system? Are you running computer models? Are you developing other systems in the laboratory, or –?” You know, so, there’s still stuff going on. There are absolute steps that they could take now to start giving away to a responsible third party — like the United Nations — you know, the fissile material,– or IAEA, excuse me, whoever the appropriate world body, governing body is — to safeguard those nuclear materials. That’s a step that they could be taking. But we’ve got to see something. Otherwise, I really don’t think the president should take this meeting if we don’t have concrete verifiable steps to that denuclearization.

TUBBS: [00:08:00] I’ve known you quite a number of years. And I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you — and I’d love your ‘from the heart’ answer. Why is — why was North Korea, kind of, ‘your thing?’ Can you explain it?

GARDNER: [00:08:14] Yeah. So, when I was elected to the Senate in 2014, I was named the chairman of the East Asia Subcommittee. And I recognized the importance of Asia, soon to have 50 percent global population, 50 percent global domestic production, free trade routes, some of the largest standing armies in the world, all of that. But, one glaring problem: a maniac in North Korea who was starting to threaten the world with nuclear war. And all of that potential opportunity with Asia goes down the tubes if you have a guy with a nuclear weapon who either, one, could use them; or two, destabilize the region; three, start a conflict; or four, drive proliferation of nuclear weapons because Japan suddenly decides they need nuclear weapons, South Korea suddenly decides they need nuclear weapons, Vietnam — because they all have it — needs nuclear weapons. And then we have this mass proliferation problem that we thought we had stopped decades ago.

TUBBS: [00:09:13] All right. I want to — your time is valuable. I just have a few more questions. And we’re going to be late to our break, but I mean, when somebody on the level of Kim Jong Un asks if if you have any body hair or whatever he did, I got to keep you on as long as I can.

GARDNER: [00:09:27] [chuckles]. Right.

TUBBS: [00:09:27] I want to ask you this: as a guy — a kid who grew up in Wray, on the eastern plains of Colorado, and you have a house there, and family and all of that, and you’ve been here a long, long, long, long, long time. I want you to tell our Denver audience honestly — not political answer here, Corey. I want you to say to the best of your knowledge, do you think, right now, North Korea has the capability of launching a nuclear missile that potentially could hit — not Alaska, which is not that far — I’m talking the contiguous U.S. — could it even include Denver?

GARDNER: [00:10:11] Well, first of all, those are fighting words to say I’m from Wray. That’s that other guy. I’m from Yuma, a few miles down the road.

TUBBS: [00:10:13] Oh, Yuma! I knew that! I knew that. Yuma, Wray — I love them both! There’s my political answer! Sorry about that, Cory!

GARDNER: [00:10:14] Yeah, yeah. No problem. To answer your question, just look back at their most recent test. It showed an altitude and time that clearly puts the United States in the nuclear shadow of North Korea. Now, could they strap a warhead on that, and launch it, and hit the United States with it, accurately, in a way that it would survive reentry and blow up? We can’t wait for that answer.

TUBBS: [00:10:48] Yeah. Yeah. Do you think the meeting’s going to happen?

GARDNER: [00:10:51] You know, I don’t know yet, at this point. Today, I have no reason to believe that it won’t. But if we don’t see those steps that I’ve mentioned that need to be taken, then I hope it doesn’t.

TUBBS: [00:11:01] Where do you think — where do you think– I’m sorry to interrupt you, but where do you think it should be held?

GARDNER: [00:11:07] Yes. Again, that’s the White House’s decision. I don’t know what the appropriate place is, but I –.

TUBBS: [00:11:14] I’ve heard Geneva.

GARDNER: [00:11:14] Yeah. you know, I don’t know. I mean, this is [inaudible] over here. But I do know this: it’s because sanctions have worked that we’re in this position and we can’t let up.

TUBBS: [00:11:25] I mean, [if] you don’t do something now –. I know you’ve got little kids. I mean, this is something that my kids, your kids, people, our listeners’ kids could have to deal with.

GARDNER: [00:11:36] Yeah. And we’re running out of time, and we’re running out of diplomatic runway. If the President of the United States can’t get this done, then you know, what options are left is a big question. And we need peaceful denuclearization. That’s simply the bottom line. Kim Jong Un has got to stop his reign of terror against his own people and the globe, and stop holding us hostage to the nuclear threat.

TUBBS: [00:12:00] I’m going to let you go. I would be remiss if — I just have one other thing. I’ve got to ask you, from from your position in the United States Senate here in our own backyard, what do you think of this Michael Hancock scandal right now? And I don’t know if you know him personally.

GARDNER: [00:12:18] You know, I haven’t tracked the story. I haven’t talked to Michael about it. So, I just I simply — have not been following the story.

TUBBS: [00:12:26] You know what? That was a good political answer. And I believe you, because I take you at your word. It’s actually titillating reading. I’m just going to tell you. Trust me. It is. Are you coming back for the weekend? Or are you home? What’s going on?

GARDNER: [00:12:44] So, I actually spent today in Colorado Springs, met with a number of defense contractors, went through the National Cyber Security Center in Colorado Springs. I’m on my way to Denver for meetings tonight. Tomorrow I’ll be up in northern Colorado and out in the eastern plains for some [U.S. military] Academy nomination review committees. So, a busy, busy weekend.

TUBBS: [00:13:00] All right. Cory, I wish you the best of luck. Have a good weekend. I appreciate you joining us. And I’m going to have to deal with, now, an hour and 15 minutes of why I didn’t grill you on X, Y, and Z. And frankly, you came on to talk about North Korea. That’s what I wanted to talk about. And hell, now I have my own show, at least for a while. So, I can do the interviews the way I want. I always appreciate your your time and –.

GARDNER: [00:13:26] Hey, thanks, Steffan. Thanks for having me on.

TUBBS: [00:13:26] Thanks, and you’re always welcome to come back on.