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Hassan Says North Korea Threat Requires Steady Leadership, Not Bluster

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

  All 100 U.S. Senators were summoned to the White House Wednesday for a classified briefing on the growing threat posed by North Korea.

This comes amid rising tensions over concerns North Korea could be readying for a nuclear test.

New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan was there for Wednesday's briefing, and joined NHPR's Morning Edition to talk about her reaction.

  What was your takeaway from the briefing? How imminent is this threat?

Well, we certainly know the situation with North Korea is extremely volatile. We also know that we need really steady and strategic leadership from the White House. We need to continue to work for a comprehensive strategy to address the threat, and we also need to make sure we’re working with our allies, strengthening our defensive capabilities, and pressuring China to engage in a truly constructive way.

Some Democrats have been dismissive of Wednesday’s briefing. Your colleague Tammy Duckworth of Illinois called it a “dog and pony show.” Is that a fair assessment?

I think there are always concerns about this president’s improvisational style and bluster. And a number of us were surprised to be called to the White House for the briefing in the way it was handled. That being said, what we need to do is to continue to work together to address what is a pressing and truly volatile situation.

Was anything new learned?

It was a classified briefing, so I’m not going to comment on details, but what I want to make sure we are all focused on is how we can best work together to address a serious threat. We also know we have to do it in a way that isn’t based on bluster. And it’s going to be really important that we see a comprehensive strategy.

The president of China is urging the U.S. to use restraint with North Korea. After the briefing, how confident are you in the Trump administration’s ability to handle this situation?

I think he has some strong people in his national security team. And I know that we are all going to continue to work together to be strategic and steady here. I think it’s very important that we stay focused on that; that we are restrained, steady, serious, and strong. Those are all things we can do together, but it’s going to take a real focus on a comprehensive strategy, and not bluster.

What should the next steps be for the U.S.?

What I will hope we will do is continue to use diplomacy backed with strength.

On another topic, I did want to ask you about your efforts to increase federal funding coming to New Hampshire to address the opioid crisis.

You and Senator Shaheen were among the Senators who met with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this week, who’s chairing the president’s opioid commission.

Where do things stand?

I was really appreciated for the opportunity to meet with Gov. Christie and some of President Trump’s advisors concerning the heroin, fentanyl and opioid crisis. Now what we need to see is action following this meeting. I think the point that a number of us at the meeting were making was that there is a lot of evidence-based action, whether it’s prevention, treatment and recovery services, there are law enforcement practices that we have been implementing in the state, that we need to continue to focus on and support. And that the time for study is over and there are actions and steps that the White House could take. One of the things we did discuss, Senator Shaheen and I, with Gov. Christie, was this need to make sure that we are getting funding to states that are getting hit hardest by this crisis in a proportional way. So they listened well to that, and I’m hopeful we’ll see some action.

So Gov. Christie was receptive. Are you hopeful there may be some movement there?

I think it’s too early to tell that. He did hear us. He said he had heard those concerns from senators and governors from other states. We were joined by our colleagues from West Virginia for example, which is another state that has a very high death rate from heroin, fentanyl, and opioid overdoses. And so we were really pushing to see if they would redo the formula. They were receptive to it, now we’ll just have to see if they actually do it.  

You’re co-sponsoring a bill in reaction to the incident we saw recently where a United Airlines passenger was dragged off his flight. What would this bill do exactly?

I was outraged, as everybody who saw that video was, and what we want to make sure is that passengers have rights that respect the value of their ticket, respect them as individuals and human beings, and make sure that boarded passengers have the right to fly. The TICKETS Act would guarantee that a boarded passenger has the right to fly, unless there are security or health issues. It would provide fair compensation to ticket-holding travelers. So if they are denied boarding, the compensation for that inconvenience would be a realistic one and reflect the value of that travel and ticket to the passenger. It would improve transparency so that when you get your itinerary and your receipt, it states very clearly what the airline’s policy is about overbooking and bumping people. It addresses problems with ticket overselling. It asks the Secretary of Transportation to look at the practice of overselling and see if we need to change the rules affecting that. And it requires flight crews seeking accommodations to provide more advance notice. All of these things are intended to make sure passengers know what the policies are, have rights when they’re on the plane, and will help us take a look at the entire policy of overbooking. Airlines are making record profits right now, and there’s just no excuse for what happened on that United flight.

Do you see some bipartisan support for this?

We are working and reaching out to members of both parties, and I know members of both parties are very concerned about what happened.

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