During an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Senator Portman discussed the president’s broad proposal on trade, and his preference for addressing this issue with a more targeted approach that focuses on the countries that repeatedly violate our laws and the steel products that are most at risk from a national security perspective. Portman also addressed the breaking news of CIA Director being nominated to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as his support for the bipartisan Senate investigation into Russia meddling in our elections.

Excerpts of the interview can be found below and a video can be found here.


“It’s still unclear exactly how it’s going to work out, but I think it’s good to exclude Canada and Mexico. We’re in the middle of negotiations with them on the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, and I think it might help to get to us a decision point on NAFTA. And then some other allies, Australia and the UK come to mind, who are in the top 10 steel exporters to us. Those are obviously strong allies and military allies right now in some important conflicts. I think it’s better to do it in a more targeted way. One thing I said last time was there’s certain products of steel that are particularly problematic because they’re coming in at high levels. Electrical steel I talked about, which is threatening our ability to have an electrical steel production here in the United States, which is necessary for the grid. The other is oil country products, the pipes and tubes that have been coming in, electrical has had 100 percent, pipes and tube about 80 or 90 percent increase in the last year alone. So I think targeting the products is also important.”


“We’ll see what happens, I think Pompeo has got the respect at the State Department, but also on the Hill, you know he’s a former House member so he has a lot of relationships on here on Capitol Hill so I don’t see a big shift. If fact, I see maybe a deepening of ties. In my view, Tillerson has done a good job. He comes to the Foreign Relations Committee and talks to us frequently, and I wish him well.”


“I think a bipartisan review of this is really important and so far so good. In the Senate, Mark Warner, who is the ranking Democrat and chair of this committee, and Richard Burr have worked together. They’ve told me that something is coming out very soon, and it will probably be two or three stages, as I understand it, of their report. The first report will focus on what actually happened during the election and what the Russian meddling was and how to avoid it going into these primaries general elections this year. I think it’s really important that we have a bipartisan consensus on getting to the bottom of this issue. The American people want to know. I think the collusion issue is one where I don’t see any proof of it out there. But I do see a lot of proof and evidence of the Russians meddling in our elections and in general using disinformation against this country, and we ought to talk about that. The notion that we as Republicans are not going to get into that issue because it might affect the presidential campaign inquiry is crazy. This is a serious national security issue, and I think it would be in the interest of everyone, including the administration, to dig into this, understand what happened, and provide the American people with a bipartisan or at least a non-partisan summary and conclusion of what we ought to do moving forward.”