Exclusive– Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna Calls for Bipartisan Coalition to Work with Trump on Ending Foreign Wars: ‘I Think We’re All on the Same Team’ As Americans
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a progressive Democrat who is the co-chairman of the 2020 Democrat presidential campaign for Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview that he hopes a bipartisan coalition comes together to work with President Donald Trump to end a number of wars and U.S. military conflicts worldwide.
Ro Khanna argued that if the United States stops its backing of Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war, finally ends the war in Afghanistan, withdraws troops from Syria once and for all, resists temptations by some to get militarily involved in Venezuela, and completes successful peace negotiations with North Korea, then the United States could better invest resources wasted abroad into rebuilding America’s infrastructure.
“Here’s my message: We probably all agree that our primary responsibility is to make sure that America and our values lead the 21st century,” Khanna said when asked what his message is to the millions of Trump supporters who read Breitbart News, people who may find it odd that a Democrat is open to working with Trump on at least some things:
Our biggest competitor in my view is probably China in terms of who’s going to win the 21st century. Is it going to be a free enterprise democracy with America, or is it going to be an authoritarian country like China? China has not been in a war since 1979. They are putting all their resources into building good will with other countries and into developing their airports, their bridges, their universities, their artificial intelligence. Why are we involved in wars that are not winnable that are costing us resources that are strategic in winning the 21st century? Instead of all the trillions of dollars that we have spent on these wars, imagine if we built our infrastructure, if we invested in our people, if we helped build our country to make sure that we win in the 21st century. I think that is a message that every American regardless of whether you voted for President Trump or whether you voted for a Democratic member of Congress can get behind because it’s for the national purpose and when it comes to winning in the 21st century I think we’re all on the same team.
In the hyper-partisan era that is the Trump administration, Khanna has emerged as a unique voice in the Democrat Party. While he is certainly a progressive Democrat and harsh critic of the president and his administration on many things, he is also someone who is willing to work with Trump in places where he agrees with the president — particularly on ending wars he, like many in the grassroots of both sides of the aisle, view as endless.
Khanna definitely has credibility on both sides of the aisle and is able to work seamlessly with voices as diverse as House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and newly elected socialist firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). In fact, the night before this interview with Breitbart News a little over a week ago, Ocasio-Cortez praised Khanna on her Twitter account — a tweet highlighted by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But then in this interview less than a day after those Ocasio-Cortez and Clinton tweets, Khanna repeatedly cited efforts to work with both sides of the aisle including with President Trump and his administration, as well as the president’s top allies like Meadows and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) among others. Khanna even pitched meeting with Trump alongside others like Meadows and Paul as part of a bipartisan coalition to get the U.S. out of unnecessary foreign entanglements.
Khanna says the reason why he is working with people on both sides of the aisle on this issue — and doing interviews like this one with outlets like Breitbart News — is because he senses a growing nonpartisan sentiment, even in Congress, where people are sick of the wars.
“There is a wariness of interventionism and militarism overseas in the Congress,” Khanna told Breitbart News. “You have very thoughtful critics of this on both the Republican and Democratic side. There are people like Mark Meadows who have spoken out about the need for congressional authorization before we get into another intervention. He’s been very helpful in our efforts on Yemen, and of course there’s people like Rand Paul.”
The primary effort that Khanna is leading in the House is a battle to end the U.S. backing of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war. The U.S. action started under former President Barack Obama’s administration, without congressional authorization, and continued under President Trump’s administration. The U.S. was refueling Saudi bomber jets — until the Trump administration stopped that, at least for now, under public pressure — and also has been providing targeting assistance to Saudi Arabia’s air force.
Early last year, in the spring of 2018, a coalition in the United States of groups from both the grassroots left and grassroots right came together to back an effort in the U.S. Senate to pass a War Powers Resolution reining in the executive branch’s actions on behalf of the Saudi coalition in Yemen. The first time around, in early 2018, the effort failed, falling a few votes short of the necessary total to pass a War Powers Resolution out of the Senate. The then-GOP-led House would not consider any such resolution.
But then later, on a second try in late 2018 after the midterm elections, the U.S. Senate passed the War Powers Resolution with a bipartisan coalition. It was historic. Neither chamber of Congress had until then passed a War Powers Resolution invoking the War Powers Act since the law’s inception in 1973. The law was passed in the wake of the highly unpopular Vietnam War as part of an effort by Congress to install another check on the executive branch so the president cannot enter or carry on wars without congressional approval. The founding fathers of the United States gave war-making powers to the Congress, as Article I of the U.S. Constitution clearly says that Congress has the authority to declare war — not the president.
Sen. Paul, one of the Republicans who alongside Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) led the GOP-side of the push, told Breitbart News when the measure passed the Senate that it was an “extraordinary moment.” Now, the Democrat-led House of Representatives has passed a War Powers Resolution on Yemen as has the GOP-led Senate this year — the Senate had to pass a new one in the new Congress — and the two chambers are working on reconciling the differences between their passed versions and are very likely going to send one to the president’s desk soon.
Khanna said he hopes that President Trump will sign the War Powers Resolution when it gets to his desk — arguing that it would be a historic win for Trump as he would have accomplished something that has never happened before in U.S. history. Khanna also said that Trump could, by signing this, help brush aside Democrat criticisms of his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s security clearance and communications with Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
“My hope is we’re going to pass for the first time a Yemen War Powers Resolution, in the history of this country, since 1973,” Khanna told Breitbart News. “It’s going to pass with Republican votes as well, both in the Senate and the House. My hope is that the president will sign it. That will go a long way in his recognizing the need for congressional authorization prior to having military involvement abroad. It also will go a ways in dealing with the current scandal over Kushner’s security clearance and conversations Kushner has been having with MBS. It would reassure the country if he signs the War Powers Resolution by showing he’s willing to hold Saudi Arabia accountable.”
The War Powers Resolution fights over Yemen in the U.S. Senate and beyond have brought together a unique coalition unlike anything else in U.S. politics. Groups as diverse as FreedomWorks and Code Pink, or the Charles Koch Institute and Win Without War, as well as lawmakers as different as Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee or Ro Khanna and Mark Meadows, have been working together building trust with each other for over a year now.
While these people usually are working against each other on any given issue and digging into their respective partisan trenches on everything from health care to immigration to taxes or anything else, as they have seen victories on Yemen in the Senate and in a general change in the Trump administration’s approach to the Yemen civil war, trust has built throughout the movement. As that trust has manifested, the arena of foreign policy issues at least some of these folks have been working on has expanded beyond just Yemen to working towards a broader foreign policy vision for the United States that pushes for an end to wars in places in like Afghanistan and withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria — as well as support for peace negotiations with North Korea.
Khanna specifically noted that he met with former President Jimmy Carter ahead of Trump’s second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and that he backed the president on the meeting with the North Korean leader in a push for peace. He also cited Afghanistan, Syria, and wariness by many of potential U.S. military intervention in Venezuela. Overall, it’s a new vision for U.S. foreign policy emerging with broad populist bipartisan support.
“This coalition is also on North Korea,” Khanna said. “I supported the president when he engaged in dialogue with Kim Jong-un, and also I met with President Carter who I also know supports that diplomatic effort as do also 15 to 18 Democratic members of the House. This coalition on Venezuela, there are Republicans — I don’t want to mention their names because I don’t want to get them in trouble, but there are Republicans who have talked to me on the floor and said they are concerned about a military intervention there. So, there is an emerging understanding that often times military intervention makes things worse and not better.”
This populist foreign policy vision is particularly politically popular too. In the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump repeatedly bashed both Obama and his predecessor former President George W. Bush — and Bush’s brother and onetime Trump opponent former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — over the endless wars. There was this particularly brash moment during a debate in South Carolina, for instance:
Which came as part of a bigger fight between the Bushes and Trump in the final waning moments of Jeb Bush’s failing presidential campaign in 2016:
Days after all this, Trump would go on to crush Bush — and all his other opponents — winning the South Carolina GOP primary by more than ten percent over the next closest finisher Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Jeb Bush dropped out of the race that night.
But Trump is not the only candidate that year who was pushing stopping the foreign wars: Sanders was too, and while Sanders did not make it past Clinton in the Democratic primary, the energy behind him from the left’s grassroots was a major theme of 2016.
Now that Sanders is running again in 2020, ending unnecessary U.S. interventions worldwide is again a major theme of his campaign — and Khanna, a co-chair of his campaign helping Sanders’ policy framework, is a driving force of that. Khanna said in his interview with Breitbart News that he noticed when he introduced Sanders in Chicago at a rally in early March that the crowd cheered most loudly during his speech for saying Sanders would end unconstitutional wars.
“You may want to take a look at my speech in Chicago when I introduced him, and the loudest applause I got was when I said ‘when Bernie Sanders is president, there will be no more unconstitutional wars,’” Khanna said. “So, you’re absolutely right — there’s a populist sentiment to get us out of bad wars. China hasn’t been in a war since 1979. They are our competition. There aren’t getting into bad wars — they are building their own country. We need to be focused on building our country, our infrastructure, our universities, our airports, bridges, and roads, our research institutions.”
This is the first part of Rep. Ro Khanna’s exclusive interview with Breitbart News. More are forthcoming.